Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr.

Providence City Arts for Youth, Inc.

Providence CityArts! for Youth, Inc., a non-profit, community-based fine arts and performance organization providing free programs to develop the artistic talents and stimulate the intellectual development of Providence's inner city youth, is honored to be nominated by Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. for the Christina Mattin Arts Award for Programs Reaching Youth at Risk.

iCityArts! launched its first after-school program in the fall of 1996. This vital component continues to expand to meet enrollment demands. While enrollment is open to all Providence children, ages 8-14, preference is given to those most at-risk. The majority of iCityArts! community of young artists live at or near poverty level and experience one or more of the following factors: living in single parent households, and/or exposure to substance abuse, violence, transient living, HIV/AIDS and criminal activity.

Providence's Mayor, Vincent A. Cianci, Jr., has been a iCityArts! champion since its inception, spearheading its growth and development with personal involvement and the allocation of substantial funding. The City has, to date, devoted more than $700,000 of CDBG and Bond Issue funding for iCityArts!' building purchase, and has contributed $65,000 for program support.

The converted factory serving as iCityArts!' home makes the arts accessible and visible to children living in Providence's economically poorest, most racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods with large African-American, and Latino and Southeast Asian refugee and immigrant populations. The 1990 census reveals that residents of the area in which iCityArts! is located and where most of its students reside had a per capita income of $15,334, with 30% of households reporting no earnings. According to data collected by Brown University for iCityArts!, 44% of those enrolled in last year's summer program were Hispanic, 23% African American, 11% Caucasian, 4% Asian predominantly Cambodian and the balance "Other".

All after-school and summer programs (delineated in accompanying materials) are taught by professional artists and art educators who live or work in Providence. iCityArts! is fortunate to engage the participation of Providence's celebrated community of artists. Its paid faculty are working artists who are experts in their particular discipline, inspiring in their students a celebration of their creativity and artistic abilities. The faculty, like the students, are racially and ethnically diverse, enhancing the children's appreciation of being part of a global culture and developing the children's pride in their own heritage. Integrated into all classes are decision-making, conflict resolution, communication and stress coping skills, empowering the youngsters to resist peer pressure, and negative influences and behaviors.

iCityArts!' success is propelled by its collaborative partners and volunteers representing a broad cross-section of Providence's artistic and educational communities. Volunteer teaching assistants are recruited through the Rhode Island School of Design, Brown University, the media, and by encouraging the participation of talented parents and neighborhood residents. Student outreach is targeted to those most at-risk, with printed recruitment materials provided in Spanish and English.

Collaborations continue to increase and include the Rhode Island School of Design and its Museum, Very Special Arts Rhode Island, community centers, and a variety of arts venues and nonprofits.

CityArts!' viability in maximizing student success is demonstrated by its current relationship with the Providence School Department. Subcontracting with the School Department under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to create Renaissance Centers at three public school "campuses" in the cityeach including one middle and two elementary schools for a total of nine each campus provides after school, Saturday and summer programming. All programs are designed to enhance the students' learning abilities and performances on standardized tests.

The work that i'CityArts! accomplishes in employing the arts to promote self-understanding and self-esteem while breaking down barriers of discrimination has generated wide-ranging support. With a FY '99 budget of $297,916, iCityArts! is supported by grants from the City of Providence, the Rhode Island School of Design, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, a coalition of Providence's universities and hospitals, major foundations and businesses, and gifts from benefactors, volunteers, collaborators and the community-at-large.

Now embarking on the second phase of an ambitious $1 million, two-year capital campaign to be publicly launched in January 2000, capital funding will improve the iCityArts! building. Situated within the Southside/Broad Street revitalization area, one of only five in the nation designated for the national Main Street Program, the improvements to the iCityArts! building will propel its programs and the area's resurgence. Among the most salient improvements is the conversion of 6,000 square feet into studio space for rental to 12 working artists. As part of the rental agreement, each artist will participate in iCityArts! programming, teaching, mentoring, and/or serving as Artist in Residence. An exhibition gallery will feature works of ethnic artists, and those of iCityArts!' students.

iCityArts!, in employing the arts as a vital vehicle to enrich, enlighten, educate and instill in its community of at-risk young artists a strong values system, redirecting them away from substance abuse, gang involvement and violence, is a sustaining force for positive growth and development. iCityArts! knows that there is much work to do with Providence's inner city youth whose access to arts, cultural awareness and activities, and a stable environment is tenuous. Historically, iCityArts! wait lists more than 100 at-risk children for its Summer Arts Camp, and approximately 50 for each session of after-school programming. A Christina Mattin Arts Award would do much to empower iCityArts! to enable more of Providence's at-risk children to overcome their challenges and realize their potential by embracing the arts.


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