Mayor Marc H. Morial

Arts Council of New Orleans Urban Arts Training Program

The Urban Arts Training Program, operated by the Arts Council of New Orleans, is a unique school to work project that uses the arts as a vehicle for: improving and integrating academic and work skills, increasing students' self-esteem and motivation, and exposing youth to new fields of employment possibilities.

The Arts Council of New Orleans has been operating this program since 1992 reaching over 1)200 young people. This summer the Arts Council of New Orleans operated its integrated work and learning program for 200 low-income teenagers who worked in four different arts areas - music, theater & dance, visual arts and computer graphics.

In 1999 the program was located at four local universities: Loyola, Xavier, Dillard and Southern University. Students worked with professional artists and had access to the university computer labs, art studios, theaters and recording studios. The core of the program is an arts-related work experience that offers the students learning opportunities in basic academic skills and key job skills. The staff uses a Junior Achievement program designed for this age group called, "Personal Economics". The students, working in teams of 10, create a commissioned art work for a nonprofit organization or a performance piece for the community.

Student accomplishments this past summer included:

  • Creation of a compact disc - with student performing the music, doing the studio recording, and creating the art work for the packaging.
  • Production of "Mood Indigo" - The Poetry of Langston Hughes & the Music of Duke Ellington - performances by the theater and dance students with students also handling all technical aspects of lighting, set design, and costuming.
  • Creation of a wall mural for the Daughters of Charity Health Clinic and a Tile Pathway for the Alcee Fortier Park.
  • Design and creation of web pages, posters, and programs by the graphic design students.

The Urban Arts Training Program links one of our City's most valuable assets, our artists, to address one of our City's most important needs our at risk youth.

The Mayor is a strong public advocate for youth programs. He has personally supported this program making it a part of his initiative to provide summer employment for the youth of our city. Each year he visits the program to talk to young people about their work and to give the key note address at the closing event of the summer component.

The Arts Council of New Orleans program has been supported by Job Training Partnership Act funds and donations from corporations and local foundations.

This fall, students started arts businesses as anew component of the Arts Council of New Orleans' Urban Arts Training Program. Using Junior Achievement materials, artists and musicians are coaching youth that have created the Olympian Tile Company and the Crescent City Music Production Company. Students are learning business and job skills through this entrepreneurial experience.

The goal of the Urban Arts Training Program is to introduce inner city, economically disadvantaged youth to the opportunities that the arts hold for careers and future employment. This new after school component builds on the Urban Arts Training Program's seven year experience in conducting a six week summer program. Both programs teach basic skills such as reading, computation, and oral communication within the context of work assignments. Job skills are enhanced and developed through an emphasis on discipline, focus and creative problem solving. To date, the Urban Arts Training Program has reached over 1,000 low-income, disadvantaged teenagers with job training through the arts.

The Urban Arts Training Program exemplifies an integrated approach the Arts Council of New Orleans uses to promote the arts while identifying opportunities that give the arts a strong economic base. The Arts Council recently received national recognition for efforts to combine arts and businesses when its Entergy Arts Business Center was awarded the 1998/99 Randall M. Whaley Business Incubator of the year by the National Business Incubation Association.

Quality of Instruction and Participant Performance.

The Urban Arts Training Program has been built on established materials geared for children between the ages of 14 and 18. A partnership with Junior Achievement is in place and the professional artist instructors have incorporated the Personal Economics and Company Program materials into arts business situations. Each year, these professional artist instructors are recruited from New Orleans' pool of quality, established arts professionals. The program has proven to be such a positive experience for these artist professionals that they recruit their peers to participate as instructors constantly expanding the reach and impact of the program.

Program Design and Creative Content.

The Urban Arts Training Program has developed a modular approach to program design that supports and promotes the creativity of the individual artist instructors. The students work in areas that reflect the interests and talents of the arts professionals. Within this context the students are led through "real work" projects from concept to construction. From public art installations to music compact discs, students are heavily involved in all aspects of the project development, implementation and evaluation.

Integration of Support Services, Prevention Strategies, and Child Development.

Each year the Urban Arts Training Program collaborates with diverse sectors of the New Orleans community. The universities involved have begun to routinely reserve space for the program, and see it as a feeder program for prospective students. The Orleans Private Industry Council, which provides funding for the program through the Job Training and Partnership Act, holds the program up as an example of how students can be taught work readiness in an innovative and creative way. The artist instructors and students establish strong ties and several have maintained contact long after the program's completion. Students are introduced to new career and employment opportunities in the arts and are taught key job skills that they can take with them to any job.

Evidence of Impact on Development, Education, or Resiliency.

Through the high quality of the instructors, materials, and facilities the students involved with the Urban Arts Training Program are given the strong message that they are valued, thus raising their levels of confidence and self-worth. They are given a positive escape from the negative inner-city environment. And because the program directly places students in a university environment, barriers to higher education are eliminated as students experience a university setting and begin to visualize a future that includes higher education.

One student who was affected in such a way is Derick Hullin. He first became involved with the Urban Arts Training Program as a teenage participant Derick had no intentions of attending college after high school, but his experience with artist instructor Ron Bechet changed everything. Derick's family has a long history of involvement with the Mardi Gras Indian tradition. This tradition of masquerading as Indians at Mardi Gras has been carried on in the New Orleans African American community since the 1880's. Although exact origins are unknown, participants attribute the tradition to African American/Native American bonds forged in the slavery era. During this time, the local Native Americans welcomed, accepted and sheltered run-away slaves. This humanitarianism was never forgotten, so when African Americans began participating in the local masquerade tradition, they chose to mask as Indians as a form of respect and homage to the assistance extended them during the period of slavery. Ron valued this unique perspective and encouraged Derick to respect and cherish his rich cultural heritage. Subsequently Derick stayed involved with the Urban Arts Training Program to work with Ron. His involvement with the program uncovered a love for art and he enrolled as an art major at Southern University of New Orleans, the first member of his family ever to pursue a college degree. In 1998 Derick joined the staff of the Urban Arts Training Program as a teaching assistant and now works to supply other students the same opportunity he was afforded.

Innovations with the Urban Arts Training Program.

During the 1998-99 school year a new after-school component to the Urban Arts Training Program was initiated. Using Junior Achievement Company Program materials, musicians and visual artists are leading two groups of teenagers through the process of creating arts businesses.

The student created Crescent City Music Production Company focuses on producing a compact disc featuring local artists performing gospel, rhythm and blues, jazz and rap music selections. Led by internationally know flutist Kent Jordan, the 15 members of this company auditioned and recorded both singers and instrumentalists for their compact disc. The students are allowed to work in both private and university recording studios and are currently developing a marketing plan to promote sales of their final product. These students will also have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of the famous New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Through this unique experience they will be exposed to how music production is handled in a live situation, and how the publicity department for one of the nation's largest music festivals implements their marketing plan.

The student created Olympian Tile Company is another example of the Urban Arts Training Program's innovative use of the arts for job training- Olympian Tile Company designs and creates ceramic tiles using New Orleans related motifs and later sells them at local venues. The students are currently developing marketing plans for upcoming fairs and festivals where their tiles will be sold. Members of the company will be demonstrating their work at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and have received a commission for an installation of their work at the groundbreaking of Jazzland -a $230 million family theme park that is being constructed in New Orleans East.


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