September 2005: Young At Art Children’s Museum
Homeless children are by most accounts among the fastest growing segments of the homeless population, accounting for 25 percent of the urban homeless population. Homelessness causes difficult social, emotional and physical barriers for children, sometimes leading to low self-esteem, emotional trauma, lack of self-confidence, depression, unhappiness, lack of personal hygiene, lack of sleep, and hunger. Young At Art Children’s Museum’s ArtREACH program helps to improve the lives of these children by establishing a safe, productive, creative environment that nurtures their artistic, emotional and educational growth.
ArtREACH was designed to provide an innovative four-hour after-school program five days a week at a transitional shelter for youngsters in grades K–8.
A goal of the initiative is to establish a safe place that offers nurturing activities for children and helps alleviate the stress of finding transportation and after-school care for homeless parents who are working and living temporarily in shelters.
The after-school sessions use art as a conduit for children to express their hopes, fears, and anxieties. As they master new artistic skills, children gain self-esteem and self-confidence. The sessions also provide homework assistance and therapy to improve educational skills and to address behavioral issues.
Strategy: The museum transformed three apartments in the Plymouth Colony shelter to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere for the after-school sessions. It gutted the spaces and repainted inside and out with whimsical features that recall the swirling styles of Van Gogh and the bold shapes of Matisse. A sign on the door welcomes artists, and the first activity for entering children is to make their own artistic licenses—worn as name badges—that empower them to create and imagine at will in the space.
The core program of ArtREACH features a range of offerings that address the academic, emotional, and social needs of these children. They include the following:
• Age-appropriate art, literacy, and computer activities
• Homework assistance conducted by school board-certified teachers.
• Journal writing
• A team-building public art project called The Peace Quilt conducted by the museum's African artist in residence and displayed in libraries around the county
• Monthly field trips to the museum and other cultural institutions
• Bi-monthly parent/child art programs on Saturday afternoons
• A public exhibition of the children's artwork at the shelters and local banks
• Participation in the Museum's Children's Festival of the Arts each May, at which children create, discuss, and sell their art, keeping all the money earned through their sales.
Interviews with parents, children, staff, and program partners reveal that children feel safer, happier, and more self confident. They look forward to coming "home" and are delighted to see the colorful space and welcoming staff who greet them each day. Creating art is a joy for children, and they have proven capable of mastering even difficult art skills. Interviews also show that participating children are more focused on their homework and more confident in school.
The museum is working with the school district to analyze data from school attendance and tests taken by these children to measure academic outcomes.
The ArtREACH initiative is the first time a museum has become a driving force in working with the county school district and a major social service provider to bring about community change regarding the needs of homeless children and families.
ArtREACH brought together homeless shelters that had previously dealt with issues such as after-school care in isolation. The program suggests a cohesive solution that could serve those needs without cost to the families.
ArtREACH has even helped change how county government thinks about its support of the homeless. For years, Broward district schools have worked to provide services that meet the educational, emotional, and social needs of homeless children. County government focused on their basic care—shelter, food, clothing, and medical services. This past year, Broward County Children's Services Division witnessed the remarkable impact of the ArtREACH program, acknowledged the importance of providing youth services for homeless children, and created a new funding stream within its Homeless Support Services. Young At Art applied for and was awarded a multiyear contract to provide services for homeless children through ArtREACH at its original site and to expand into additional sites. It illustrates the broadening the vision of social service funding.
Homeless Education Program, led by Dianne Sepielli, of the School Board of Broward County
The Salvation Army
Broward Outreach Center
Women in Distress
Broward Partnership for the Homeless
Funding also provided by:
Broward County Cultural Division
Community Foundation of Broward
Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs
A.D. Henderson Foundation
John S. & James L. Knight Foundation
Jim Moran Foundation
Peacock Foundation, Inc.
School Board of Broward County, Florida
Sun-Sentinel Diversity Fund
Winn Dixie Foundation
MacArthur Dairy (In-kind)