Art a la Carte

Art a la Carte

College Bound Dorchester.
18 Samoset Street
Dorchester, MA 02124
Phone: 617-282-5034
Fax: 617-265-6020

Focus: Visual Arts

Annual Number Participating: 50

Ages: Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $110,500


“Read the course descriptions for Art a la Carte (AalC), and it’s clear that this Boston-based program takes art instruction seriously. Young people ages 11 to 18 can study drawing, design, and composition, tackling projects in form-making, perspective, ink wash, and charcoal. In a life-drawing unit, students sketch people, plants, and landscapes. In a unit on color, young artists work with collage, colored pencils, pastels, and oil paints.

And that’s just the Studio I class. AalC offers two additional levels of instruction, culminating in an intensive yearlong portfolio development course that helps participants prepare to apply to college.

Although this may sound like an elite prep school’s curriculum, Art a la Carte is actually sponsored by College Bound Dorchester (CBD), an educational and social service organization. CBD strives to improve opportunities for residents of Dorchester, an inner-city neighborhood where violence is prevalent and drop-out rates are high.

CBD developed its sequential, cumulative arts curriculum to provide a meaningful alternative for the neighborhood’s youth. Respected artist/educators teach the free classes, offered after school and on Saturdays. AalC structures the classes to build on one another so that students deepen their skills and have an incentive to remain in the program; on average, students stay three years. Partnerships further enrich the experience. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum exposes AalC students to museum administration and operation, while Northeastern University coordinates visits to artists’ studios and galleries.

With a small (1:10) teacher–student ratio, AalC participants receive the kind of support that’s often unavailable in schools, notes Deborah Aspen, AalC coordinator. “Students tell us that we believe in them when others haven’t and that we encourage them in situations where they haven’t felt supported in the past.”

And, thanks to AalC, these young artists are painting brighter futures for themselves. Of students completing the portfolio class, 95 percent go on to college, with many pursuing arts careers. These grads often return to the community to teach the next generation, fulfilling CBD’s ultimate goal of using education to create a positive cycle of change for Dorchester neighborhoods.”

Art a la Carte is designed to help students start thinking about what they want to do with their lives and to develop the kinds of relationships and have the kinds of experiences that lead them to think good thoughts and make good decisions.

Deborah Aspen Art a la Carte Coordinator, College Bound Dorchester