The Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation

Artists For Humanity’s Youth Arts Enterprise

Grant Information
Categories Arts , Education
Location United States
Cycle Year 2020
Organization Information
Organization Name (provided by applicant) Artists For Humanity
Organization Name (provided by automatic EIN validation)
Contact Information
Contact Name Lizzy Mayer
Phone 6172687620
Artists For Humanity EpiCenter
100 West 2nd Street
Additional Information
Used for Artists For Humanity (AFH) respectfully requests $5,000 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation in support of our efforts to empower under-resourced teens through paid employment in our Youth Arts Enterprise. With your investment, AFH will employ 325* young people in 2021, and equip youth with the discipline, confidence, and competency to succeed in school, work, and life, through authentic work experiences, innovative mentorship and academic support, advanced training in art, design and creative technology, and experiential learning in STEM+Arts (STEAM). Our request directly corresponds with your mission for child welfare and access to educational opportunities. *Goal of employing 325+ teens in 2021 is our current estimate based on a projected reduction in social distancing protocols in the second half of the year and subject to change as circumstances evolve.
Benefits Your partnership will support diverse under-resourced teens as we cultivate social equity by fusing art and enterprise within the context of respect, responsibility and meaningful relationships. Through mentoring teens to apply design-thinking methodology to authentic studio projects, giving them access to advanced creative technology and professional networks, and supporting their academic endeavors, AFH empowers young people to embark upon avenues to economic security, educational attainment, and upward mobility. We hope you will consider reinvesting in AFH as we work with young people and promote social change through employment in the creative industries. Together, we can offer young people a powerful platform to amplify their voice, the opportunity for meaningful paid employment, and a supportive community where they can develop the creative, entrepreneurial, and academic skills necessary to achieve their goals.
Proposal Description The Youth Arts Enterprise
AFH transforms the experiences of underserved young people through our central program, the Youth Arts Enterprise, which employs Boston teens during their out-of-school hours: traditionally working Tuesday-Thursday from 3:00-6:00PM during the school year and Monday-Friday from 12:00-5:30PM during summer. AFH partners teens with our staff of professional artist and designer mentors to work on commissioned creative projects. Studio sessions focus on developing youth creativity and innovation. During COVID, small physically separated groups of teens work alongside mentors in our facility, or participate remotely through virtual studios, or engage through a hybrid model combining both approaches. While together in-person, teens and staff make full use of our 53,000 sq. ft. studios to allow for maximum social distancing and implement strict hygiene measures.

Youth are employed as artists and designers on projects in Painting (Fine Art Commissions and Murals), Creative Technology, Graphic Design, Photography, Video and Event Production, and 3D Design (3D Fine Art Installations, Industrial and Furniture Design). AFH teaches ideation, experimentation and testing; the design thinking methodology sought-after by today’s employers. Central to our vision is creative employment and partnership with industry to provide a pipeline to jobs in well-compensated creative and technology-based fields.

Youth and art/design mentors collaborate on paid commissions—from multi-media installations for offices and hotels, to brand design and collateral for local businesses and corporate headquarters—that promote active learning and 21st century skills in creativity, media, collaboration, technology, critical thinking, problem-solving, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). AFH mentors make explicit the STEM concepts embedded in AFH studio projects to support teens’ in-school learning, and host visiting STEM professionals to open the STEM career pipeline to under-represented youth. (1)

Commissioned projects require teens to craft a product that responds to client needs. Whether virtually or in-person, teens are directly involved in client meetings and negotiations, giving them an important introduction to the professional world. Teens participate in planning, product development, and marketing of projects. Through this process, young people have positive and encouraging interactions with adults who value their work and appreciate their contributions. Like any job, they are expected to be punctual and participate as team members.

Each year, AFH organizes 100+ exhibitions and art installations. These exhibits allow viewers to develop a greater understanding of the young, urban experience. Each young person’s creative work or contribution to a commissioned project represents an opportunity for marginalized youth to use their voice. Sales of their artwork or prolonged exposure through AFH’s exhibition leasing program continues the dialogue. Art-making and design are AFH’s chosen vehicles for social change because they give marginalized youth the confidence to engage with the world. Promoting youth creativity and talent brings AFH’s social justice strategy to culmination.

Enhanced Educational Opportunities for Youth Employees
Understanding that educational opportunities offer pathways to economic attainment, AFH offers significant academic advancement and college access programming including:

• Tutoring (Available Monday-Friday, in person or remotely)—As needed, AFH provides teens with 1:1 tutoring outside of studio hours to help them develop comprehension in core subjects, succeed in tests, and improve grades. Tutoring is available to all AFH youth employees, and teens with grades of D or below in core subjects or language on their quarterly report card are required to attend as a condition of their employment.

• College Readiness—AFH helps teens develop individualized plans for post-secondary education, and provides assistance with college tours and applications. AFH works with teens to secure scholarships and financial aid packages through a variety of opportunities and institutional partnerships. The class of 2020 received $460,000 in scholarships with assistance from AFH’s education staff.

• College Persistence/Success—AFH supports program alumni enrolled in post-secondary education with financial and human resources. We offer summertime Assistant Mentor positions at AFH and connect alumni with other employment opportunities through our alumni Facebook page.

The indicators of success are compelling. On average 97-100% of high school seniors working at AFH graduate, and 97-100% of graduating seniors are accepted to college each year. For comparison, the Boston Public Schools four-year high school graduation rate is 73.2%.(2)

Population Served
Teens enter AFH because they need a job, because they want a safe place to go after school, and because they want to be part of something productive. What they find is a culture of respect, responsibility, and engaged mentorship where their creativity is valued, their peers are their colleagues, and they have an opportunity to learn and earn money.

All Boston teens enrolled in high school or a GED program are eligible to work at AFH. AFH’s teen employees represent Boston's diverse demographics and attend Boston public high schools. Currently, our teens identify as: 25% Black; 27% Latinx; 32% Asian; 10% bi- or multi-racial; and 6% White. 90% percent of our youth employees are from low or very low-income families. Over the last 4 years, 79% of AFH seniors have been first generation college students.

Grant Allocation
If awarded a grant from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation AFH will allocate $3,500 to youth wages and $1,500 to our art and design mentoring staff. AFH teen participants are paid at least $12.75 an hour, plus commissions on sales of their art and design works. Paying employees proves to teens that their work has value and allows young people from low-income families to participate. AFH’s artistic mentoring staff is comprised of professional artists and designers who train and collaborate with teens on commissioned projects while guiding their personal, academic, and professional development.

Teens enter AFH because they need a job, because they want to take part in meaningful after-school activities with their peers, and because exploring and expressing their creative vision is a form of empowerment with infinite possibilities. What they find is a culture of respect, responsibility, and engaged mentorship where their ideas are valued and they have the opportunity to learn and earn money.

Through mentoring teens to apply design-thinking methodology to authentic art projects, giving them access to advanced creative technology and professional networks, and supporting their academic endeavors, AFH empowers young people to embark upon avenues to economic security, educational attainment, and upward mobility. A job at AFH provides young people with the things they need most:

• Youth Employment/Income: Training and employing teens offers them a key solution to economic disenfranchisement and has a positive impact on their lives, their families, and their communities. While research confirms that early work experience is critical to future success (3) teens of color and teens from low-income families like those at AFH are least likely to find crucial first jobs(4). AFH uses economic empowerment and the responsibility and respect of paid employment to change the trajectory for low-income teens, show them that their creativity has value, and introduce them to the opportunities and expectations of a professional workplace. In 2019, AFH employed 325 teens, paying more than $800,000 in wages and commissions to teen employees.

• Productive Activities During Out-of-School Time: Boston’s Youth Violence Prevention funders conclude that the best violence prevention strategy is meaningful employment (5). AFH teens work from 3:00-6:00PM during the school year and 12:00-5:30PM in the summer, providing youth with structured and meaningful out-of-school time employment in a supportive community.

• Access to Arts Education and Cultural Experiences: There is compelling evidence to support the value of arts education on a young person’s success in school, work and life (6). Low income students who are highly engaged in arts are more than twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education (7) yet year-long instruction in the visual arts is less accessible in high poverty vs. low poverty schools (8). With limited arts programming at Boston Public Schools, the City’s youth have few opportunities to express their creative voice in positive ways that are valued by others. AFH promotes youth creativity and talent by training teens to create, exhibit, market and sell their fine art, design, and digital media services. Completing hundreds of custom design projects annually, AFH youth are a valued creative resource for the commercial world.

• Mentorship: At AFH, teens develop relationships with role models from similar backgrounds who have successfully navigated the roadblocks to social and economic empowerment. More than half of the artist mentors employed at AFH are alumni. As peers, they connect to the teens through their shared experience. As mentors, they challenge teens to trust in their abilities, expand their perception of what is possible for them, and assume increased responsibility. AFH mentorship entails traditional adult-to-youth training and peer-to-peer sharing in a fusion that cultivates youth leadership. This holds true for the high school freshmen entering the program eager to learn, and for the AFH program graduates who return to our studios as mentors. AFH mentoring fosters an intergenerational cycle of youth and community success.

• Develop Diverse Leaders: Our program perpetually cultivates young people’s leadership and personal growth through collaboration and self-governance. At AFH, teen artists sit at conference tables with CEOs; their opinions are valued; and they are looked to as experts. And, in the process, they discover new trajectories as future leaders. AFH’s Community Arts Initiative provides further opportunities for teens to develop leadership skills through initiating and leading collaborative community projects, and serving on the Community Arts Initiative committee where they have a voice in selecting the projects to be funded.

• An Alternative Model For STEM Learning: Teens who attend underfunded public schools need greater access to STEM disciplines, including technological training to become active participants and leaders in the creative economy. AFH integrates STEM topics within studio practice to affirm teens’ confidence in their STEM abilities, promote their fluency in acquiring and applying STEM concepts, and connect under-represented youth with STEM career pathways. AFH further prepares teens to explore innovative STEM disciplines by providing them with access to current and emerging technology, digital media outlets, and advanced technological training.

• Pathways to Careers Where Diverse Young People are Under Represented: Working at AFH introduces teens to professionals and career pathways in innovative creative and STEM fields. While employers increasingly recognize the value of a diverse workforce, they lack an effective education-to-employment pipeline for teens from diverse backgrounds. As experienced pioneers in this field, AFH is positioned to address this talent gap and expand our role as an incubator to the creative workforce of the future by partnering with employers to provide opportunities for our talented teens.

• Access to Professional and Social Networks: Teens who lack the professional connections afforded by an affluent background need access to social and business spheres so they can build effective networks that provide access to jobs and other opportunities. At AFH, teens develop their networks by working on commissioned projects with leaders in business and the art and culture community. In the process they gain valuable connections that can lead to future employment and educational opportunities.

• Improving Educational Attainment through Resources and Support Systems: With the Four Year Graduation Rate for the Boston Public Schools at 73.2% (9). AFH believes many teens need more diverse educational pathways, and one-on-one support and guidance to assist them with high school graduation and post-secondary transitions. AFH provides academic support systems through After-Work Tutoring; College Readiness/Senior Transition; and College Retention/Success.

AFH makes social equity a tangible reality by changing the experiences of underserved young people—one person at a time—through opportunities. The opportunity to learn as they earn money, to use their intrinsic creativity as they master marketable skills, to forge a path toward post-secondary educational options and meaningful careers, to believe in themselves.

In 2021, AFH celebrates our 30th anniversary, and our mission has never felt more important. AFH began with the ambitious and unconventional idea that young people can provide, through their innate talent and vision, contemporary creative services to the business community. AFH remains a haven for teens from every corner of the city, a place where they can explore and express their creative abilities, identify possibilities for continuing education, and most importantly, dispel the myth that the larger world is forever closed to them. We are excited to serve our city for another 30 years - doing our best to help Boston’s young people become leaders in social change. According to teen Graphic Designer Anne Wei: “Artists For Humanity is such a great organization and I’m so glad they gave me the opportunity to be a part of something impactful during the summer of 2020. The youth is the future and all thanks to spectacular staff members and mentors, I was given a voice. Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, to inspire, and that is what AFH allowed me to do.”

(1) Thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation, AFH partnered with the Education Development Center to develop a curriculum based on foundational STEM activities in AFH studio projects. As a part of this work, AFH’s Director of Program Operations created a guide to integrating STEM professionals in the art and design process.
(3) Sum, Andrew. Center for Labor Market Studies. Northeastern University. 2012.
(4) Sum, Andrew et al. “The Plummeting Labor Market Fortunes of Teens and Young Adults” The Brookings Institution (March 2014): 1-27.
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