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Exemplary Art Programs
September 20th, 2010 by @dm1n
What makes good art programs exemplary? As an innovative program, improving our method is part of what drives us as an organization. Best practices in after-school arts education point to quality teaching—and at this point we have three staff with advanced degrees (soon four), all of whom have been here for more than two years (Susan l2, Viviane l0, Krista 6). Sarah, Katie, and Brian bring undergraduate degrees in the arts and a confirmed dedication to their work with a vulnerable population of kids. The value is not simply in the extra time spent acquiring different layers of knowledge within the field, but in the maturity of experience it takes to help further positive youth development. All of our students are part of a progression of programs that reflect and reinforce each other. Every one benefits from quality teaching, and more importantly, an extra measure of mentoring from DAVA staff. The presence of caring adults also figures prominently in best practices programs. 900 kids per year are the reason for the extra time we put into this work. DAVA staff engages in a system of dedicated arts education, posing questions that kids attach to through creative problem solving. Why not harness the imaginations of young people in finding constructive solutions for the many issues that surround us? If it is economic development our community needs, then fostering our own creative workforce will become one of the defining measures for the future growth of this changing urban neighborhood. In that regard, we are intensely collaborative: our community and its resources help reinforce the work we do with young people. Even though DAVA represents a safe haven for at-risk kids along the Colfax Corridor, we do not offer programs in isolation. Rather, we stay connected to the schools, to the Community College of Aurora, Aurora City Government, and a host of other local groups that depend on DAVA to further our community’s goals. We have evaluated the results of DAVA’s method over the seventeen years of serving the Original Aurora Community and soon will have a fully developed report on the benefits of consistent, year round arts programming. In the last funding cycle, both SCFD Cultural Councils, the Anschutz Family Foundation, Denver Foundation and others have pointed to the outcomes of our three survey tools. So, although we imagined a DAVA model that could be replicated, we have gained significantly from measuring outcomes that add to the benefits of after-school programs. Stated simply, we provide an experiential forum to extend the school day, and during the summer, we extend the school year. -Susan Jenson, DAVA Executive Director

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