Exploring Creativity Through Arts Programming

Creativity Queen Valerie Killebrew is back to share the latest with BGCA’s Arts programming, including a TON of new content that will spark your members’ imaginations.

Learning in the Arts

Creativity and the arts give people new and unique ways of thinking and expressing. For young people, arts experiences provide opportunity to explore, imagine and communicate through creative expression. At Boys & Girls Clubs, art forms are categorized into the following four pillars:

Graphic showing a rainbow watercolor background with four columns of text. The first column says Visual Arts, then Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Pastel. The second column says Performing Arts, then Drama, Theater, Music, Spoken Word. The third column says Digital Arts, then Graphic Design, Digital Music, Digital Photography, Digital Storytelling. The fourth column says Applied Arts, then Jewelry Making, Woodworking, Fashion Design, Furniture Design.

Arts programs and learning experiences in Clubs are grounded by evidence-based strategies that effectively drive engagement, retention and skill-building among youth. These strategies include developing positive relationships with adult mentors, cultivating a culture of high expectations and respect for creative expression, providing physically and emotionally safe spaces for creative expression and ensuring arts programming culminates in high-quality public events, experiences and/or products.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s approach to the arts includes three levels of learning for creative youth development experiences:

  • Exposure: Foundational experiences that provide opportunities to explore, play and experiment with different art forms or media  
  • Skill-Building: Intermediate experiences that build social-emotional skills and technical skills in an art form or media 
  • Demonstration: Opportunities to demonstrate skills or techniques that contribute to a portfolio or culminating event, experience or product 

Understanding Exposure Experiences

Think about the earliest memory you have in an artistic experience. It was most likely either wonderfully positive, where your imagination and curiosity were honored and celebrated, or potentially traumatic, where you were made to feel like you “couldn’t do it.” Those early experiences in arts learning will often shape how a person engages with the arts for the rest of their lives. So, how do we create those positive moments for all young people to experience the arts?

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All young people are curious. Exposure experiences in the arts are centered on curiosity and inquiry based learning– positioning youth as the leaders of their own learning and caring adults as facilitators of a young person’s exploration. The idea behind providing exposure experiences as the first arts learning level is to create multiple entry points for all young people to experience arts in their own way. Exposure experiences have the following components: 

  • Lead with questions: Facilitators should guide exposure experiences using questions as guide posts (rather than instructions). Start dialogue by using phrases like: 
    • What would happen if..? 
    • What do you think should come next..? 
    • What else could you try..? 

It is important to see exposure experiences as the place where young people can explore and “try on” an art form, versus build skills and technique.  

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  • Promote exploration: Experiences should not have an end goal, but rather be time to be playful, experiment and try many different approaches: 
    • Try to have a variety of tools or objects to explore. 
    • Play along with young people, so they see your experimentation as well. 
    • Spend time creating but not making it “look, sound, act” like something specific. 
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  • Celebrate individuality: Encourage and celebrate the individual ways young people approach something (there is no right or wrong here!): 
    • Allow youth to explain what they created (versus saying it looked/sounded like something from your own mind). 
    • Illuminate all the different ways different youth approached something. 
    • Reframe the idea of “fail” as a “first attempt in learning”.  

Remember, while artistic skill may be built through exposure experiences in the arts, that is not the goal. Your goal is to create environments for safe and fun exploration! Not every young person will want to move on and learn more specific skills in an art form, but every young person should have the opportunity to be exposed to a variety of art forms and media, finding a positive entry point.  

Check Out NEW Arts Experience Map and new Arts Activities on Club Programs 

BGCA has just created a new Arts Experience Map to help direct you to activities and experiences across art forms and learning levels of Exposure, Skill Building and Demonstration. This Map is your guide to the latest Arts content, linking directly to activities on Club Programs, MyFuture, and BGCA.net. Download it here or on BGCA.net.

Many of the experiences on this map are brand new arts exposure experiences across age groups on Club Programs. While these experiences all leverage the arts and creativity, they can be used in an program area and with any other activity. Check them out on the Staff Practices section of Club Programs.

Happy creating! 

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What are your favorite Arts activities? How do you integrate self-expression and creativity into the Club day? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org.

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