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Two Kentucky Youth Programs Named National Arts And Humanities Awards Finalists

Two Kentucky organizations are among 50 finalists for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards.

The awards, supported by the President’s Council on Arts and Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, recognize outstanding creative youth development programs across the country for their work in providing excellent arts and humanities learning opportunities to young people. The 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award Finalists reflect the diversity of disciplines and settings of these exceptional creative youth development programs that are taking place from coast to coast.

Lexington’s Central Music Academy, which has provided free musical learning opportunities to more than 900 financially disadvantaged students since 2005, is one of the Kentucky-based finalists. The academy is also one of the Kentucky Arts Council’s Kentucky Arts Partnership organizations.

“I know what a big honor it is to be named a national finalist for this award, and we were over the moon,” said Erin Walker Bliss, Central Music Academy’s director. “I think we’ve had great results giving students a musical education at CMA. It’s yielded a lot of accomplishments. We’ve had students accepted into SCAPA (Lexington’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts); Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra; and district honor bands, orchestras and choirs.

“We’re also proud of our students’ nonmusical accomplishments. We’ve had 100 percent of our seniors graduate from their respective high schools, and 98 percent have gone on to college,” Walker Bliss said. “That’s a big deal because some of them are first generation college students.”

The Louisville Free Public Library’s English Conversation Club was another Kentucky Finalist for the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. The club provides a relaxed atmosphere in which non-native speakers practice conversational English. Sophie Maier, the immigrant services librarian at the library system’s Iroquois Park branch, said the club started as a service for adults, but evolved to include children.

“We realized a lot of women couldn’t access the English Conversation Club because they have babies and children they were taking care of,” Maier said. “We got out word that babies and children were welcome. With children came teenagers, and they became vital to the program. Some teens, who came here at a younger age, learned to speak English fluently. Now they serve as helpers to our group’s newcomers.”

For the teens who are using the program as a learning opportunity, Maier says the experience goes beyond the acquisition of English.

“It’s not just language learning,” she said. “We might have them work on questions to push them into critical thought, and in some countries, that’s not part of the education system.”

Since the club’s inception in 2004, it has extended to the Louisville Free Public Library’s main downtown branch and throughout the system.

The award winners will be announced this fall.

To be considered for a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, organizations must:

  • Operate as a program for children and youth outside of the school day;
  • Use one or more disciplines of the arts or the humanities as the core content of its program(s);
  • Concentrate on children and youth who live in family and community circumstances that limit their opportunities — underserved children and youth are the primary participants in the program;
  • Involve children and youth as active participants in the arts or humanities experience;
  • Provide participants with ongoing, regularly scheduled sessions;
  • Integrate arts or humanities education programs with youth development goals (e.g., enhanced leadership skills, self-confidence, and peer relations);
  • Have been operational for a minimum of five years;
  • Be a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, unit of state or local government, or federally recognized tribal community or tribe; and
  • Be in good standing if a federal grant recipient.

The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.

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