Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Arts & Youth Development in Action | Young Men and Mosaics

As I have written and spoken about many times before, youth development is a simple concept to understand but, for some reason, it is very difficult to fully integrate its practices at a program or organizational level. I think it's because it requires that we as adults really look at our own stuff and work through our blocks around what young people are capable of. We have to not be afraid to let them go out there and do real work that has a real effect on the world. At the same time, we have to set very clear boundaries with very high standards for them to operate in. This balance of freedom and structures is hard for us to implement with young people because we often struggle to find this balance in our own lives.

I love when I see dead on examples of what positive youth development really looks like in practice. I often find that the most effective programs are related to arts. And it's not just my bias. Check out this video. It's about a community arts project involving young men creating mosaics in juvenile hall in Baltimore. It runs about 12 minutes...

Book Review | The Creative Family

Glitter & Razz is celebrating Mothers this month with a free gift. I am so excited about this. Anyone who registers for summer camps in the month of May or refers someone who registers will get from us a copy of the book, The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule.

Allison and I love this book. So many other "creativity" books for moms, families, and kids relegate "creativity" to the realm of craft and craft alone. This definition of creativity is limiting because it implies that, in order to be creative, one has to know how to sew or be permanently attached to her glue gun.

Don't get me wrong. I love craft projects. I am not surprised by the overwhelming popularity of scrapbooking. At the same time, my work is all about helping kids and the adults who love them understand the amazing power of personal and collective creativity to change the world. And there are so many ways to do this. In addition to crafts, we can nuture our creative energies through storytelling, dance, nature walks, or puzzles. Soule acknowledges the various ways that families can be creative including through everyday activities like bedtime and supper.

We always talk about the importance of a child's imagination. Even Soule's subtitle includes the phrase "how to encourage imagination." But, we rarely talk about how this imagination is the foundation of a full creative life. We also rarely talk about the importance of imagination in our adult lives. What I appreciate most about Soule's book is her openness to share her our creative journey with her children and then with us, the readers. She writes a lot about how her creative spirit has been re-awakened through her explorations with her children. And, she writes about the connections that a creative family life brings; connections to each other as a family, to the greater community, and to the Earth.

See? That's life-changing stuff right there.

This is the perfect book for modern families. Modern families are growing and changing in a world where new ideas are being called upon to solve age-old problems. Our modern families are not simply laying down to go night-night with the same old stories that we were given. We are questioning our role as mega-consumers who are willing to buy the same old messages of Dick and Jane and the prince coming to the princess' rescue. We modern families are actively re-writing new stories that value simplicity, kindness, and celebrate the fact that Jane and Jane and their kids just bought a condo a few doors down. We recognize that we all have our own unique stories to tell and that, by making the space to tell and listen to these new stories, we can all work together to change the world.