Mayor M. Susan Savage

City of Tulsa Park & Recreation Department Neighborhood Arts Outreach

More than 400 Tulsa high-risk children ages 6 to 15 have enjoyed after-school arts programming through the City of Tulsa "Neighborhood Arts Outreach"(NAO) project. Two professional artists, a classroom teacher and a high school mentor create a collaborative team teaching dance, music, storytelling, video, theater and visual arts skills such as clay, drawing and painting, to groups of 25 students at seven school sites.

Direct hands-on arts experiences and caring adult role models create a safe, positive, and creative environment. At the end of each session, all students participate in an event (performance or open house) to which family and friends are invited. NAO is designed as a free after-school arts program for youth not currently involved in extra-curricular activities and who are at risk for school failure. Artistic aptitude is not a requirement. Children whose economic situation makes the chance of exposure to arts experiences unlikely, have enrolled from the seven Title I Tulsa Public Schools over the last two years. The vast majority of children are African-American, but there are also Latinos and Caucasians. Local law enforcement personnel talk to children about the advantages of making positive choices in their lives. The arts-based intervention emphasizes responsibility and allows children to make creative choices about the content and product of their resulting piece or performance.

Two afternoons a week, for nine weeks, after-school snacks are provided before every two-hour session and also a free lunch is provided for children during the two-week summer session. Enrollment is open in participating schools to any interested student in selected grades on a first-come, first-served basis at the beginning of fall and spring semesters. A two-week summer session has served 60 neighborhood youth. NAO informational enrollment flyers (some in Spanish) are sent home with elementary children and mailed to families of middle school students. In some cases, the site team's classroom teacher identifies and recruits youth for the program. The need for after-school arts programming is so great that capacity enrollment was reached overnight in one school and a waiting list was established. Each site has a performing and a visual artist, each of whom design an integrated arts curriculum to include creative ideas from the students. Hands-on experiences relate the arts to math, language, and history to help youth understand the significance of arts. Many teachers of participants report an increased involvement in academic subjects concurrent with attendance in the program.

Community volunteers and the law enforcement personnel who serve as adult mentors are integral to in the success of NAO. Participants interact with role models informally, increasing their trust and diminishing fear of authority figures. Arts activities encourage youth to work cooperatively and to improve their ability to communicate effectively. The classes are based on process-oriented teaching methods, which emphasize the production of age appropriate art.

A formal plan for evaluating success is critical to this program. Pre- and post- testing using the Protective Factors Scale, participant portfolios, attendance data, and the input of the participants, their parents and staff are all tools to measure success. At the end of each session, survey measurements as well as anecdotal evaluations are collected from the artists, teachers, mentors and volunteers. Factors such as improved grades, increased school attendance, and remaining in school are direct measures of success.

Complete testing results are not yet compiled. This program is funded through the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) Local Law Enforcement Block Grant. The Block Grant funding was applied for and administered by the City of Tulsa Mayor's Office. City of Tulsa Park and Recreation Department staff created the NAO program and submitted an application for Block Grant funding. Tulsa Parks' staff collaborated with community resource people to create and administer the program. Reports are prepared monthly for the Mayor's Office to ensure compliance with the DOJ funding regulations.

City of Tulsa Park and Recreation Department collaborates with several organizations in NAO. Tulsa Public Schools provides free classroom space and an activity bus to take middle school students home after each session. The Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa serves as the official local arts agency in our city and supervises the contracts with artists. Personnel from Tulsa Police Department, Tulsa Fire Department, and Tulsa Fire Marshall's office volunteer their time. Youth Services of Tulsa, a social service agency, provides adult mentors. "Friends of South Peoria," a neighborhood coalition of area churches, businesses, and service agencies, arranges for volunteers and free lunches for the summer program. After-school snacks in two schools are provided by the YMCA Children's Coalition.

The DOJ funds are allocated to the Park and Recreation Department. "Neighborhood Arts Outreach" is under Purpose Area VI which establishes crime prevention programs involving cooperation between community residents and law enforcement personnel to deter crime. The City of Tulsa provides a ten percent match for the block grant.

NAO has proved to be a highly successful arts program. Since some components of this program were patterned after the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, the potential for replication of the program in other communities is great. Artists, teachers and mentors are delighted to expose participants to the arts and to foster hope, opportunity and dreams to youth at risk.


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