Grantee Spotlight: CREC’s Center for Creative Youth Program

In 2010, an IBM Global CEO study found creativity to be the most important leadership quality. Creativity is also among the top 5 applied skills sought out by business leaders- with 72% stating that creativity is crucial when hiring. Here at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, our mission includes funding over 150 arts and cultural organizations that help make our community strong and vibrant. That’s why we invest in programs like Neighborhood Studios, our award-winning, nationally recognized summer arts apprenticeship program and organizations that fuel creativity and innovation by awarding grants.

Ignition Grants  fuel the research, design and execution of new strategic plans to support arts and cultural organizations as they strive to create unique and innovative solutions that go beyond “business as usual”—delivering exciting, cutting-edge programs that reflect the creative spirit of our community-and encourage innovation in all aspects of our daily lives.

One of our 2017 Ignition Grantees is the CREC Foundation’s Center for Creative Youth Program. The Center for Creative Youth is a pre-collegiate summer residential program created by the Capitol Region Education Council, designed to give talented high school students the opportunity for intensive training and study of the arts at Wesleyan University. The Center for Creative Youth program offers concentrations including theater, musical theater, creative writing, photography, instrumental and vocal music, dance, filmmaking, and visual arts. Additionally students participate in Elective Intensives: a series of classes that encourage students to explore art forms outside of their chosen concentration, or deepen the study of their chosen art form. Offering workshops, field trips, open mic nights and so much more, the Center for Creative Youth program fills the summer with creative inspiration!

The program admits approximately 120-140 students between the ages of 13 and 18 every summer to create a diverse ethnic, economic and cultural community. Students must have completed one year of high school to be eligible for admittance. With over 40 years in existence, the Center for Creative Youth program has developed a culture of acceptance and progressive encouragement.

Program Coordinator of the Center for Creative Youth Program, Lisa Foss said, ”CCY creates a unique culture of encouraging artistic practice, but supporting the artist on a whole.  Our motto is “Home is where the ART is”- and CCY becomes home for many, many students who find acceptance, validation and encouragement here through the program.”

Previously the Education Director of Hartford’s Children’s Theater, Foss joined The Center for Creative Youth in summer 2014 just before residency began. Her performing arts background was heavily influenced by the Theater, however, she loved that CCY incorporated a multitude of different art forms in one program. “It is the perfect place for creative-minded teens to be exposed to so many different art forms, and to have the opportunity to explore their many creative interests,” said Foss. She even has a unique perspective on CCY as both an administrator and parent of a participant. In summer 2016, her seventeen year old daughter enrolled in CCY’s Theater program. “I loved hearing about the classes, the discoveries, and the emotional connection my own student experienced during the program.”

Foss also shared the experience of previous CCY participant, India W.:

“The arts are taken very seriously here and the program has given us a positive, memorable experience. I love being able to work with people who share the same passion for the arts as I do. I’ve learned to work with people both in artistic and social situations. I can honestly say CCY is by far the most judge-free zone I’ve been a part of. The RA’s here are amazing, supportive, and understanding. I’ve never met a group of people so lovely and ready to work with hormonal teens every day. Again, thank you so much for allowing me to have this experience.”

The Center for Creative Youth Program is also dedicated to developing a path for their participants that will lead to a beneficial future. “Providing students the opportunity to have a pre-college experience with an arts focus is vital to nurturing the art-makers of tomorrow,” said Foss. “High-quality training and exposure to international artists is rare in a high school setting, due to the cost and the limited resources available.  Our focus on interdisciplinary arts and on collaboration is also a reflection of what happens in the broader arts community. Students discover a perspective larger than just their own artform’s focus, and it informs and influences their work in many positive ways.”

With over 40 years of operation under their belt, many students and families have found the Center for Creative Youth Program to be “life-changing;” providing focus, validation and motivation to future leaders of the artistic community. Foundations like CREC are dedicated to shaping the lives of their participants and forging a path to success in the arts. Together, we work to build a brighter, more creative future for tomorrow’s leaders.

Join our United Arts Campaign to support arts & cultural organizations like the Center for Creative Youth Program and build a stronger and more vibrant community in Greater Hartford!

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