One cannot help but reflect on how the pandemic has affected an entire generation of children. Our young people have absorbed the impacts of health and economic crises, amplified by political, social and racial divisions, while navigating virtual learning, isolation and changing household dynamics.
Throughout this uncertainty, however, we saw the courage of young people as they sought creative outlets to process their grief, hone their talents, and create beauty in the face of challenges. Our children showed us what we already knew: the arts are one of the greatest levers for healing, self-expression, development of mind and body, and social engagement. They demanded these opportunities last year and, as a community, we must commit to helping them have better access.
In her June blog post announcing $ 2.7 billion in pledges to equity-focused nonprofits across the country, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott wrote:, lowering crime rates and improving the Mental Health. Scott said that in selecting arts organizations to support, she and her team assessed smaller organizations, with artists and audiences from culturally rich regions, to identify groups donors often overlook.
As a longtime artistic philanthropist, reading Scott’s post was a rallying cry for increased support for creative youth development programs – a vision we share, which has been at the heart of my own investments in Miami and Across the country. Nationally, the Lewis Prize for Music identifies and invests in outstanding music organizations that place young people at the heart of equitable systems change.
In Miami, for the past few years, I have intentionally focused on efforts that put youth and music at the forefront, bringing together partners who share a common vision to bring creative youth development programs to every child. of our community. In partnership with the Miami Foundation, Miami County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and a group of philanthropists and change makers, we have spearheaded an ambitious effort to deliver high quality music education to all young people. . As a pilot, we started out in the city of Miami Gardens, delivering music programs to the over 4,000 students attending the 12 Miami Gardens schools in the Carol City power model. These students benefit from musical offerings both in and out of school, provided by seven local and national nonprofits, working in alliance with principals and teachers. Through this effort, organizations that would normally work separately are working together towards a common goal – a goal that could be a great model worth scaling up in our community.
The Creative Youth Development domain stimulates change by integrating young people into decision-making processes, giving them the tools to express themselves. Creative Youth Development’s attention to the holistic needs of young people, including their social, physical, emotional and educational well-being, makes the field a natural initiator of positive change in other youth-centered systems. Over the past year and a half, creative youth development organizations have adeptly adapted to the impacts of COVID-19 and the racial justice movement. They are committed to deepening their relationships with student musicians, adapting their offerings to distance learning, providing devices and connectivity where other systems failed, ensuring food for students and their families. and strive to keep their artist teachers in business. These organizations were essential anchors in the lives of those they served.
When we fund programs like these, we are removing more than barriers to arts education – we are removing barriers to dreams, hopes and creativity. I call on mayors, principals, nonprofit leaders and philanthropists at the local and national levels to recognize the creative development of young people as an essential resource to help ensure that all young people thrive.
Look for music, dance, art, theater, and media programs in your community. Include them and their young people in developing civic solutions. Work with them to ensure that all young people have access to jobs in the creative economy. Join me and many other philanthropists as we deepen our understanding of the intricacies of this remarkable field so that today’s investments and positive results are eclipsed by those of tomorrow.
Daniel R. Lewis is founder and chairman of the Lewis Prize for Music and principal funder of Music Access Miami to the Miami Foundation.