Despite the proven benefits of becoming involved in the arts, low-income, urban young people opt out of afterschool arts programs far too often. How, then, can such programs attract and retain youngsters, especially those in their impressionable tween years? This report takes a novel tack to finding an answer. Using a market research model, researchers interviewed more than 200 young people and their families, approaching them as consumers, to find out what these potential “customers” actually wanted. They then integrated these findings with views from “suppliers” (directors of leading arts programs) and researchers and other authorities on effective afterschool arts programming.
Among their conclusions are that young people face many barriers to engaging with the arts, from a reluctance to try a new activity they might not be good at to their parents’ preference for youth involvement with sports. Programs also must compete with social media and other new technologies for tweens’ attention. In addition, young people need arts activities to be highly engaging and entertaining. The report offers a variety of best practices, as well as 10 principles for developing effective, high-quality afterschool arts programming. Among them:
• Instructors should be professional practicing artists;
• Programs take place in welcoming areas designated for arts experiences; and
• Youngsters have a hand in shaping the programming.
“It should feel welcoming from the minute you walk in,” said one interviewed tween, speaking of the ideal afterschool arts program. “People should look at you with smiles on their faces. Teachers should care that you’re there.”