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YAYA Empowers Creative Young People To Become Successful Adults

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Eve Abrams
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Amaya Cannon makes a sculpture inspired by Picasso

The mission of YAYA is to empower creative young people to become successful adults through educational opportunities and entrepreneurship. 

Charity Poskitt runs the glass studio where the youth arts organization YAYA currently houses its out of school programs. Poskitt normally works with glass, but today she’s teaching ceramics. The assignment? To play.

“Just getting their hands in the material.  Touching it, feeling it, sticking it together,” explains Poskitt. “With clay, you can just fail and moosh it together, and it’s not that serious.”

Eighth grader Amaya Cannon unwraps her 2 dimensional sculpture.

“I basically made a face out of clay,” explains Amaya. “What I’m doing now is adding different layers to paint it different colors.”

This is Amaya’s first year at YAYA, and her first time working with clay, which she says is really cool.

“You can hold it, instead of looking at it on paper. You create it with your hands.”

YAYA stands for Young Aspirations, Young Artists. It was named 26 years ago, back in 1988, when the organization was founded to serve students from Rabouin High School. Over the years, YAYA has grown a lot. They serve kids from all over the city. They now work with elementary schools as well as high schools. They work in schools as well as after school, and they partner with other organizations. And next, summer, 2015, YAYA will be opening an Art Center in Central City where they will add a new dimension: the community.

“The art center is really the next generation.  It’s YAYA in the 21st Century,” says Baty Landis, the Consulting Director for YAYA.  Landis says in their new home in the La Salle corridor, YAYA will be able to provide a range of professional services for emerging artists. Which fits perfectly with their mission: to empower creative young people to become successful adults.

“We’re an arts program but with life skills goals,” explains Landis.

YAYA is structured like a European guild. Students enter as aspirants, or beginning level artists, and eventually, they work their way up to senior guild members. This structure helps create self-sufficiency and professionalism. It also uses an interest in art for a bigger purpose.

“We always say art is the tool we use,” says Monica Tyran, the studio coordinator at YAYA, “but the goal is for the students to come in and be well rounded. Through the art, through the creativity, we try to throw in life skills, whatever they need to be successful.”

Monica Tyran is the studio coordinator at YAYA. She wants these young artists to create work inspired by their own lives and experiences, rather than pop culture. Tyran teaches them art is a way to say something. But you have to know yourself in order to do that.

“The more they know about themselves, the more they understand what they want to do and what mark they want to make as an adult,” Tyran explains. “So it’s not necessarily trying to figure out what kind of an artist do I want to be.  It’s: What kind of person do I want to be?”

Tyran says these days, with art being squeezed out of schools, YAYA’s mission is more vital than ever.

“Give the artist the equipment and see what they do with it. You’d be so surprised with what they do. A lot of times, I feel like adults underestimate these kids. Really, they have a lot to say and they have a lot of talent. We try to give them to the room do what they need to do.”

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