November 6, 2009


IMLS Press Contacts
Jeannine Mjoseth,
Mamie Bittner,

Willcox TAG Team (from left) Gary Clement and  Mayra Guzman (youth), and  First Lady Michelle Obama
Willcox TAG Team (from left)
Gary Clement and
Mayra Guzman (youth), and
First Lady Michelle Obama


Photo by Steve Purcell

Washington, DC—Anne-Imelda Radice, Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), joined First Lady Michelle Obama in honoring young people from 19 communities in the U.S., China, Egypt, and Mexico who engage in after-school arts and humanities programs. Winners of the 2009 Coming Up Taller Awards, which promote educational achievement and creativity, were honored at a White House ceremony on November 4. Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) in partnership with IMLS, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

"Each of your programs is using achievement in the arts as a bridge to achievement in life. You affirm that their contributions are valuable, and their success matters to all of us. You help them see beyond the circumstances of their lives to the world of possibility that awaits them," said Mrs. Obama in her remarks congratulating the award winners.

"Coming Up Taller programs help young people build the foundation of their future successes. While they are having fun and challenging themselves, they are building skills in problem solving, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, and creativity -- experiences that will ensure both a well-rounded perspective and the ability to triumph in a global economy," said Anne-Imelda M. Radice, Director of IMLS.

The 2009 Coming Up Taller winners include an arts apprentice program, a poetry slam, and an intensive after-school curriculum focusing on literature. Each program will receive $10,000 in honor of its accomplishments in enriching the lives of young people and communities.

Elizabeth Keith, a participant in the New Urban Arts program in Providence, Rhode Island, commented, "I like working with artist mentors. Their way of looking at things can help you view the world differently—kind of like putting on a new pair of glasses."

More than 400 nominations were received by the program in 2009. Of these, 15 U.S. programs were selected for awards and 35 semifinalists were recognized. In keeping with Coming Up Taller’s spirit of engaging young people in different cultures and the world around them, Coming Up Taller honored programs from Mexico, China, and Egypt.

For more than a decade, Coming Up Taller Awards have recognized and supported outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of young people who create new visions of themselves and their futures with the help of scholars, artists, musicians and others. In 2002, Coming Up Taller began honoring international after-school cultural programs.

Organizations receiving awards included:

Tag Teen Program
City of Willcox, Elsie S. Hogan Community Library
Willcox, AZ
In the TAG (Teen Advisory Group) Teen program, teens plan content for three issues of TAG Magazine per year, then write, edit, design, layout, distribute, and fund them through advertising sales. A monthly theme is woven with education workshops, field trips, and fun get-togethers brings a forum for teen creativity in the arts and writing to a small, rural community, and creates in turn a high quality magazine that all area teens can enjoy. In the process, they not only explore their creativity in art and writing, but learn self-confidence, gain interpersonal skills, and are empowered to strike out on future paths that they would have considered only dreams before. In addition to the magazine, the year-round program features workshops, speakers, and discussions.

Harmony Project
Los Angeles, CA

The Harmony Project was created in 2001 to promote the healthy growth and development of children through the study, practice, and performance of music. The intensive, year-round program serves more than 600 children with instruction in eight instruments, choir, and orchestra programs, on an after-school and weekend basis at seven primary locations in Central and South Los Angeles. Students are provided instruments, weekly lessons, performance opportunities, juries, field trips, and a variety of supporting resources. The Harmony Project exclusively serves low-income families for whom the program is provided at no cost.

Higher Achievement
Washington, D.C.

Founded in 1975 at Gonzaga High School by teacher Greg Gannon, Higher Achievement delivers year-round rigorous programs via its Achievement Centers during the most critical time in a child’s development: middle school. Scholars receive supplemental educational experiences through intense, multi-year, after-school, and summer programs in addition to college-preparatory high school placement services. Higher Achievement’s mission is to develop skills, behaviors, and attitudes in motivated and underserved middle school children, ‘scholars’, to improve their grades, standardized tests, attendance, and opportunities: acceptance to top high schools.

Sitar Arts Center
Washington, D.C.

Sitar Arts Center provides young people from low-income families with the opportunities to discover their gifts through the arts in a safe, nurturing environment. A unique community-based organization, Sitar Arts Center provides more than 700 students annually with a rich selection of multidisciplinary arts classes offered in collaboration with local volunteer artists and DC’s premier artistic institutions. At least 80 percent of students come from low-income households.

National Museum of Mexican Art
Yollocalli Arts Reach
Chicago, IL

Yollocalli Arts Reach, a youth initiative of the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), is an arts education and career-training program for youth between the ages of 13-19. Yollocalli develops students’ appreciation and understanding of production, interpretation, and exhibition of art and provides an open forum for experimentation, collaboration, and dialogue about issues in the arts and in the students’ communities. Yollocalli holds fifteen free 8-10 week classes that meet after school two-three days as well as several rotating satellite locations throughout the metropolitan area.

Young Chicago Authors
Chicago, IL

Young Chicago Authors (YCA) encourages self-expression and literacy through creative writing, performance, and publication. YCA provides student-centered, artist-led workshops free to youth ages
13-19 in schools and communities. The process emphasizes artistic development, mentorship, and creating safe spaces where a young person‘s life matters. Now in its 16th year, YCA serves more than 5,000 low-income and underserved teens annually and reaches an additional 45,000 people through readership and audiences. Its core community comes from predominantly low-income African-American and Latino neighborhoods throughout Chicago where high school dropout rates reach as high as fifty percent.

Express Yourself, Inc.
Beverly, MA

Since 1988, this non-profit arts organization has celebrated the power of creative arts to transform the lives of youth residing in Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) treatment settings and in underserved communities. Youth coping with emotional and mental disturbance develop a sense of self-identity, belonging, and personal worth by focusing on their strengths in a high quality artistic experience rich with collaborative opportunities. Its 10-month program, Express Yourself! culminates annually in a powerful performance at Boston’s Citi Performing Arts Center. Youth are immersed in this dynamic, coherent program of music, movement, theater, and visual arts with life changing results.

Art a la Carte
College Bound Dorchester
Dorchester, MA

Now in its 15th year, Art a la Carte (AalC) is an interactive arts education program offering 50 middle and high school students the opportunity to obtain in-depth sequential and cumulative arts instruction, develop portfolios for college, or gain practical skills in museum work. Art a la Carte links teens with some of Boston’s finest artists and the local cultural community through classes, internships, work experiences, and field trips. More than 95 percent of Art a la Carte portfolio students have gained admission to college or art school in the program’s history.

Citywide Poets
InsideOut Literary Arts Project
Detroit, MI

Citywide Poets is an after-school workshop for high school poets run by the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. Students meet once a week, under the direction of a lead poet and an assistant, to improve writing skills and performing abilities. They publish their work in a year-end anthology, with accompanying spoken word CD, and perform throughout the year at numerous venues in and around Detroit. Detroit teens develop and strengthen their voices as writers in a safe, stimulating environment in which participants engage with models of poetic excellence and help one another improve both poetic craft and performance. Charismatic, committed poet-teachers, who excel both on page and stage, maintain a high level of loyalty and engagement among participants.

Outreach Program with Incarcerated Youth
Keshet Dance Company
Albuquerque, NM

Keshet Dance Company’s Outreach Program with Incarcerated Youth uses dance to teach literacy, math, and conflict resolution skills to 250 youths ages 12-18 incarcerated in the New Mexico state juvenile detention center. Working closely with professional dancers who serve as instructors as well as mentors, this program increases self-confidence by encouraging youth to find their own voice and express it through choreography and performance. Once released from jail, youth have the option to continue with Keshet in a post-release program, which provides free dance activities, a support system removed from the community which inspired past behavior, and one-on-one mentors to help the youth negotiate the difficult transition back into the community and their lives.

Shakespeare Remix Program
Epic Theatre Ensemble
New York, NY

In the Epic Theatre Ensemble’s Shakespeare Remix program, underserved students from two New York City public high schools conquer Shakespearean text while developing the tools necessary to re-interpret and perform the plays for their schools, parents, and communities. Each year, this rigorous after-school program engages students in text analysis, professional mentorship, and civic engagement, as they develop literacy, communication, and leadership skills. The program provides students an opportunity to work in a professional theatre context, to bond with peers, and to connect to adult mentors.

Girls Write Now Mentoring Program
Girls Write Now, Inc.
New York, NY

Since 1998, Girls Write Now (GRN) has helped nearly 2,500 at-risk girls from NYC’s public high schools develop into the next generation of writers and readers. Fiction, poetry, playwriting, memoir, and journalism are used to explore themes such as social justice, gender, race, and religion. Forty high school girls with emerging writing talent are custom-matched with professional women writers who serve as personal mentors and writing coaches, meeting weekly for a school year, up to four years.

New Urban Arts
Project New Urban Arts
Providence, RI

Founded in 1997, New Urban Arts is an interdisciplinary community art studio and gallery in Providence, RI for high school students and emerging artists. Its mission is to build a vital community that empowers young people as artists and leaders to develop a creative practice they can sustain throughout their lives. We cultivate mentoring relationships between artists and urban youth in free, year-round out-of-school programs. Most of our students are from Providence’s highest-poverty neighborhoods and attend public schools with little to no access to the arts. Despite these challenges, well over 90% of their students find New Urban Arts as a safe environment where they develop confidence, build strong relationships with adult mentors and improve as artists. Last year, 100% of seniors were accepted to over 30 college and universities including the Rhode Island School of Design, University of Rhode Island, Tufts University, and Holy Cross.

Young Artists Apprenticeship Program
Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston
Houston, TX

Established in 1998, Blaffer Gallery’s Young Artist Apprenticeship Program brings an intensive art-making experience to at-risk high sophomores, juniors, and seniors. This free comprehensive after-school program meets four days a week for six weeks each fall and spring, targeting 8-12 teenagers from neighboring schools with limited economic resources. Guided by the artist-mentors, YAAP students work together to create art informed by current Blaffer Gallery exhibitions. Students interact with University of Houston students, meet museum stuff, and take field trips to area museums. YAAP culminates in an exhibition of students’ final projects and an awards ceremony in which two students receive scholarships.

Playhouse Apprenticeship
The Old Brick Playhouse Company
Elkins, WV

Established in 1992, the OBP Apprentice Program provides a safe, positive environment where youth can explore the arts through after-school programming. This six-month long program culminates in a main-stage performance featuring apprentice students. The mentor-based curriculum provides bi-weekly workshops on various aspects of theater focusing on collaboration, leadership, problem solving, character development, and self-esteem. Originally designed for twenty students, the program has grown in enrollment to 83 students and 1500 alumni. Some OBP Apprentices tutor elementary students who are having difficulty learning to read. The OBP Apprentice Program provides participating student assistance with college selection, applications, scholarship, and finding employment opportunities in the arts.

International Programs
Estrellas Con Angel

The dance group Estrellas con Ángel (Stars with Angel) focuses on children with Down’s syndrome. Participants, who range in age from 7 to 36, attend two workshops a week, learning both traditional and contemporary dances, while polishing their performance skills. This is one of the outstanding programs of the La Chácara Children’s Cultural Center in Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula. The cultural center also offers exhibitions, workshops, and performances for children and youth, including those that are incarcerated, living on the streets, or in orphanages.


Radiombligo, an hour-long children’s radio show, is broadcast five days a week by 10 stations in Chiapas, a low-income, rural area in southeastern Mexico. Young people listen to the classic fairy tales of 18th century French author Charles Perrault, the music of the Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or the songs of the Mexican composer Gabilondo Soler, known affectionately as "The Little Singing Cricket." One of the organization’s longest-running programs is "Sirenas y Unicornios" (Mermaids and Unicorns).

Green Path of Art—Arts Training for Youth in Sichuan
Chengdu, Sichuan Province

Established in 1999 by the Sichuan Vocational Art College, the Green Path of Art, Arts Training for Youth in Sichuan Program helps students living in poverty pursue higher education and discover their creative potential through the arts. Immersed in the rich cultural heritage of Sichuan Province, the program offers vocational arts training in opera, dance, and visual arts. With its experience in providing students both academic and financial assistance, Green Path of Art offered psychological services and free performances to young people after the devastating 2008 earthquake. Their assistance enabled many students to continue their education and prepare for their college entrance exams. Over the past 10 years, the Green Path of Art Program has served 2,020 students in the region.

Alwan wa Awtar
Cairo, Egypt

Alwan wa Awtar serves as a multidisciplinary laboratory for creativity in Muqqatum, a community near Cairo. Diverse after-school and summer arts activities engage participants in a wide range of art forms. Disciplines encompass performing arts, such as theater and music lessons; visual arts such as painting, photography, and calligraphy; crafts, including needlepoint, basket weaving, candle making, and tie-dyeing; plus literary arts, such as storytelling. The program engaged members of the community who will improve the quality of life for themselves, their families, and their neighbors.

For more information, please visit the following Web sites:
Coming Up Taller:
President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities:
Institute of Museum and Library Services:
National Endowment for the Arts:
National Endowment for the Humanities:
Institute of Museum and Library Services:


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