New Urban Arts

New Urban Arts

Project New Urban Arts
743 Westminster Street
Providence, RI 02903
Phone: 401-751-4556
Fax: 401-273-8499

Focus: Multidisciplinary

Annual Number Participating: 300

Ages: High School

Annual Budget: $398,671


“There’s always an element of excitement and surprise at New Urban Arts, a community arts center in Providence, Rhode Island. “We never know just what’s going to sprout up,” remarks Executive Director Jason Yoon.

The reason for this unpredictability is that New Urban Arts classes don’t follow prescribed curricula or strict progressions from point A to point B. Instead, New Urban Arts matches artist mentors with small groups of high school students interested in a particular art form and provides space and equipment, including a darkroom, digital media, printmaking facilities, and fashion design resources.

Participants, drawn primarily from Providence’s lower-income neighborhoods, collaborate with mentors “to explore various lines of inquiry and see where they go,” Yoon explains. Groups might decide to create art from recycled materials, make “shrines” to parts of themselves they’ve left behind, create graffiti murals, or develop a photography installation.

This youth-directed, exploratory approach is central to the New Urban Arts philosophy. “From a developmental standpoint, it’s really important for adolescents to have a place where they make choices about what they learn, from whom they learn, and how they learn—especially during out-of-school time,” notes Yoon. “And being able to make those choices is also a big part of developing as an artist.”

Mentors are key to New Urban Arts approach. Many local colleges, including the Rhode Island School of Design and Brown University, plus a vibrant arts community are all located in the area. From this pool of talented students and professional artists, New Urban Arts recruits its volunteer mentors, who commit to spending two afternoons a week, two hours a day, October through May. These volunteers, in turn, attend regular meetings and coaching sessions to help them hone skills and deal with challenges.

By listening to, guiding, and investigating options with the students, mentors help create an environment where young people feel free to take risks, gain confidence in their decision-making abilities, and develop relationships of trust with adults. This supports participants’ artistic development, while strengthening their ability to imagine new possibilities for themselves and their world.

Last year, all New Urban Arts seniors were accepted into college, although not every participant pursues further studies in the arts.”

“I like working with artist mentors. Their way of looking at things can help you view the world differently—kind of like putting on a new pair of glasses!”

Elizabeth Keith participant, New Urban Arts