With funding for and focus on the arts in decline, it’s reassuring to know there is a foundation explicitly dedicated to finding and supporting the next generation of artists. The National YoungArts Foundation, founded in 1981 by Ted and Lin Arison, has supported thousands of these artists already, and many have grown to become leading professionals in their fields.
YoungArts touches the lives of students through YoungArts Week, focusing on nine disciplines: cinematic arts, dance, jazz, music, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing. Each year, talented artists, ages 15–18, submit materials to be adjudicated; between five and six hundred are selected as winners. Honorable mention and merit winners receive small awards, and around 150 finalists are chosen to attend YoungArts Week, an all-expense paid trip to Miami in January where they work with others in their discipline and continue to be adjudicated. Finalists give performances during the week, and, after they return home, are notified of their award level. Prizes range from $1,000 to $10,000, and participants are the only students eligible to be US Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
YoungArts Week is an incredible experience for adolescents considering pursuit of the arts. Not only are finalists rewarded for hard work, they meet other talents from across the country, creating new friends and connections. My senior year, I was fortunate enough to go to Miami for my writing contributions. It was an overwhelming experience; my peers were amazing. It was intimidating—but validating as well—because I was part of that elite group. According to alumna Vanessa Williams, “It’s an affirmation that you were right. Whether it was singing or dancing or acting, you knew that you were good enough to get there and people recognized it.”
“Amazing Young Artists: YoungArts Week 2013,” Wire Magazine, accessed May 6, 2013, http://www.youngarts.org/sites/default/files/010313_WireMagazine.pdf.
“Gehry to Turn Bacardi Complex Into Arts Campus,” The New York Times, accessed May 6, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/03/arts/design/national-youngarts-to-take-over-bacardi-complex-in-miami.html.