Our Goals for the Art & Action Program are:
To help young people find creative ways to help themselves.
Open Studio Project provides a safe space where young people who are faced with very real life challenges can learn how to use expressive art to access their own creative inner resources. The Open Studio Process helps promote healthy decision-making and emotional balance within the turbulent emotional world of adolescence.
To work together to create a healthy community:
We team with other youth-serving agencies to create high quality constructive after-school programming. Through collaboration, our organizations augment each other's strengths and create a community environment, which serves the whole teen.
To provide arts programming that is accessible and relevant:
We seek to make the deep benefits of art and writing available to youth whose circumstances or behaviors have brought them in contact with our social service partners. We provide safe, engaging encounters with creative art-making, and we tailor the program focus to the specific needs of each group we serve.
To advocate to make teen voices heard:
We create a show of teen participants' art and writing show at the end of each workshop series end. These exhibitions educate the public by revealing the truths of youths' experiences in a highly direct and powerful way: by sharing the teens' own words and images. Our experience with young people has shown us that these exhibits also increase the self-esteem of the participants. It allows each of them to be individually seen and appreciated by their community (as well as their families) for who they authentically are and for what they truly feel (which is often transformed and contrary to their previous expressions).
Why the Open Studio Process is so effective with youth
The method employed by OSP offers more than just the opportunity to work with various art media. Our OSP process is particularly well-suited to youth who come from chaotic or violent environments, youth who can have trouble connecting to and expressing their more difficult emotions in a useful way. Four elements of our programming are particularly helpful in this respect:
1. Adults work alongside teens
The facilitators, creating alongside the youths, model how they themselves use art and writing to deal with their own strong emotions and difficult decision-making. Seeing these adults taking creative risks often inspires young participants to do the same.
2. Voluntary participation = freedom and responsibility
Though kids are encouraged to read aloud what they have written, they are not forced to do so, creating safety by permitting them to decide how much they are willing to share. Freedom of choice also fosters self-confidence and an increased sense of personal responsibility.
3. No comment or criticism = learning to listen to oneself,
as well as to others
Crucial to our sessions is the rule that no one is allowed to comment in any way on art or writing created in the group. As a result, each participant is safe to encounter and express truths in his/her own time and in his/her unique way. In this atmosphere, with no expressions of judgment and no externally imposed aesthetics to live up to, kids often move very deeply into emotional territories where they might not otherwise be able to go. They explore these territories with a creative energy that far outstrips their verbal abilities; they almost always surprise even themselves. And, freed from making comments, they are frequently surprised at what they learn to hear as well.
4. It feels great to make art
OSP's experience has shown that adolescents will enthusiastically work with their personal issues using art and creative, often metaphorical, writing. We are continually impressed with the concentration and emotional depth revealed by what these youths choose to share in this safe but open space.
The Open Studio Process is very flexible and works to support and empower people in a wide range of circumstances. Within our after-school programs, we tailor our specific objectives to the common issues and needs of the participating youth.
Open Studio Project has recently implemented a new outcome evaluation system. Developed in 2007, the system was created with Chicago non-profit consultant Knight Consulting (louisewknight.com) through the "Envisioning Outcomes" program of the Evanston Community Foundation.
We believe that what places most youth at risk is primarily a problem with making healthy choices. Open Studio Project programming goal is to strengthen participants' ability to make quality sound decisions. Our method allows participants to repeatedly practice a process of creative problem solving, using art and writing to gain awareness of healthy alternate options through visual and verbal exploration and expression. Activity takes place in an atmosphere that models and encourages respect for oneself and others as sources of authentic choices.
The outcome objectives are measured along lines of content and practice.
The first outcome indicator is the percentage of participants whose writing and artwork demonstrate that they are expressing their life experience, as assessed by program facilitators. (Expressed Life Experience is defined as art and content concerned with issues of: (a). Family/Home, (b). Friends/Peers, (c). Social/ Worldview (d). School (e). Self/Personal issues. The first outcome objective is that by the end of a 6-12 week series, 90% of the participants writing and artwork will demonstrate evidence that they are expressing their life experiences, as assessed by the facilitators
The second outcome indicator is the percentage of participants as assessed by facilitators whose art and writing process demonstrates at least 2 out of 4 of the OSP steps: Intention, Artwork, Witness, and Sharing (as assessed by facilitators). The second outcome objective is that by the end of a series, 90% of participants' art and writing process demonstrates at least 2 out of 4 of the OSP steps: Intention, Art, Writing, and Sharing (as assessed by facilitators). The facilitators use a chart to track these indicators after each session, for each participant. At the end of each series, the facilitators check the actual outcomes against the outcome objectives. The first formal analysis of this data with outside oversight is scheduled for December 2008.