Growing Stronger Together: Arts Partnerships in Philadelphia

Posted by Sahar Javedani, Mar 15, 2012 0 comments

Sahar Javedani

As some of you may know, after seven years of working in New York City in arts education, I have recently moved to Philadelphia and am excited to join the creative workforce there!

Just after moving to Philly, I was encouraged by fellow arts ed colleagues to reach out to Varissa McMickens, director of ArtsRising, and she welcomed me with open arms, sharing valuable resources and orienting me on the current arts education scene and its’ wonderfully diverse programs.

On February 28, I had the great pleasure of joining 50 other representatives of Philadelphia arts & culture organizations in “Growing Stronger Together : Center City Student Forum & Conversation.”

This forum was organized by partner organizations: Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, ArtsRising, and PhillyRising.

Here's a great description of the event from the ArtsRising website:

"Growing Stronger Together, a focus group with approximately 20 local high school students and representatives from the organizations mentioned above, was really about hearing the students’ voices.

The students were asked the following 3 main questions:

1) What are you involved in after school?

2) What would you like to see available to you after school?

3) What are the best ways to let you know what’s going on?

While some of the students said they were involved in clubs and sports, others said that very little was available to them, especially in the short time frame they had given the length of their commute on public transportation.

One student said that her commute home can routinely take up to two hours, which eliminates the option of most after school activities for her.

Other students noted that after school time is when 'arguments and fights happen' and affordable opportunities to participate in clubs performance groups, lounges that promote the arts, and even career prep would be welcome and well attended."

This was a great exchange with high school students expressing their concerns for lack of afterschool programs and activities, many of which included the desire for college and career readiness programs, visual arts, poetry, acting, dance, and animation programs.

In response, staff members of these cultural organizations shared current resources and locations of programs where students can participate for free.

What quickly became apparent is the lack of effective communication methods to alert students of these varied enrichment programs. Another equal concern was the lack of public transportation from Center City-based programs to students’ homes after 7:00 p.m.

The convening kicked off of an ongoing series of monthly meetings about arts education that will be facilitated by ArtsRising.

All in all, this was a great beginning to what I hope will galvanize increased effective communications between arts education programs and students.

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