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First Lady Michelle Obama Honors Youth in the Arts

Article / Review by on November 2, 2011 – 7:05 pmNo Comments

First Lady Michelle Obama Honors Youth in the Arts



Today, First Lady Michelle Obama honored organizations from across the country that are committed to providing enriching arts and humanities programs for young people. These organizations, recipients of the President’s Council on Arts and the Humanities Youth Award, work both in and out of schools to encourage young people to experience every facet of the arts, from dance and theater to media arts and music composition.

Groups being honored include:

  • An art center in South Philidelphia that provides free art classes to 2,000 students a year, many of them immigrants
  • summer workshop in Seattle that teaches students about Shakespeare
  • A 10-day, five-state “moving classroom experience” that takes students along the path of the Civil Rights in the southern United States

Mrs. Obama told award recipients they weren’t “just teaching these young people about painting or acting or singing” in providing these opportunites. “You’re teaching them about hard work and discipline and teamwork.  You’re teaching them how to manage their time…how to set goals, and, more importantly, how to achieve those goals.”

Mrs. Obama also spoke about the importance of continuing these enrichment programs in difficult economic times because the payoff is huge for students and society alike.

And you know that for every young life you transform, there is a tremendous ripple effect…All of you working on these programs, you are impact multipliers. You are inspiration multipliers.  And that is the power that you have, that you hold.  And it is a truly precious power.  And, today, I want to honor you all.

Watch video from last year’s awards here.

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About National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the Nation’s highest honor for out-of-school arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, particularly those from underserved communities. This award recognizes and supports excellence in programs that open new pathways to learning, self-discovery, and achievement. Each year, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards recognize 12 outstanding programs in the United States, from a wide range of urban and rural settings.

Recipients receive a $10,000 grant and the opportunity to visit the White House and accept the award from First Lady Michelle Obama. Awardees also receive a full year of capacity-building and communications support, designed to make their organizations stronger. In addition, 35 exceptional youth-focused arts and humanities programs across the United States receive a Finalist Certificate of Excellence. One country each year also receives our International Spotlight Award for a remarkable youth-oriented cultural program.

The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is a signature initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities™ in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services™ to showcase cultural excellence and enhance the availability of out-of-school arts and humanities programs to children and young people.



In the scientific world, the laboratory is a place for inquiry, experimentation, and discovery. And that’s also the case at PlatteForum, an innovative arts center in Denver, Colorado, that has created its own “laboratory” for underserved youth to experiment with the arts. PlatteForum’s ArtLab program thrusts 15 high school students into an intensive, year-round art-making experience. In the company of resident artists, the teenagers delve into a variety of art forms, confronting challenges and obstacles and making life-changing discoveries about who they are, what they’re capable of achieving, and where they belong in the world.

Artlab. In the scientific world, the laboratory is a place for inquiry, experimentation, and discovery. And that’s also the case at PlatteForum, an innovative arts center in Denver, Colorado, that has created its own “laboratory” for underserved youth to experiment with the arts. PlatteForum’s ArtLab program thrusts 15 high school students into an intensive, year-round art-making experience. In the company of resident artists, the teenagers delve into a variety of art forms, confronting challenges and obstacles and making life-changing discoveries about who they are, what they’re capable of achieving, and where they belong in the world.

To identify potential participants, ArtLab staff taps a network of school counselors and social workers, seeking out teens who have an interest in creative expression, but who lack access to the arts and who may be wrestling with challenges at home or in school. Once accepted into the highly competitive program, young people spend Saturdays during the school year, and weekdays in summer, working side by side with master artists on a series of group and individual projects that address social issues affecting the students’ generation. Participants have written a play on teenage homelessness performed at venues around the city, designed billboards on acceptance displayed at major Denver intersections, and created a poignant mural on the hidden problem of child abuse for a child-abuse prevention and treatment center. To instill responsibility and recognize effort, the program pays students a stipend.

One of the many benefits that students gain from their ArtLab experience is a new capacity for tackling life’s challenges. “It’s amazing to have students who maybe never completed a homework assignment or who might be failing all of their classes understand how creative they are and how successful they can be,” remarks Education Director Meagan Terry. “We watch it carry over to their classroom, and then all of a sudden, they’re going on to community college,” she says. In fact, in a city with one of America’s worst high school graduation rates, ArtLab’s seniors routinely graduate from high school, and many go on to graduate from college, often becoming the first person in their families to do so.

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 *  The above story is adapted from materials provided by  The White House

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