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New Urban Arts’ Jason Yoon: 12 Who Made a Difference in RI in 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

 

New Urban Arts took up the challenge of supporting Providence teens at risk in 2012 under the leadership of Executive Director Jason Yoon. Photo: Jason Yoon.

While schools in Rhode Island continue to struggle with funding cuts, the pressure was never higher on Jason Yoon's New Urban Arts to fill in the startling gaps in arts education for Providence youth. And under Yoon's leadership as Executive Director, New Urban Arts posted a banner year, including being one of only 19 arts and cultural organizations to receive general operating support from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA).

The numbers tell the story. In 2012, 277 students enrolled in New Urban Arts' Youth Mentorship Program, while 135 students actively participated in the center's studio each month. Meanwhile, 22 artists combined with 2 tutors and a senior life coach to volunteer more than 4,000 hours mentoring Providence area high school students.

Paid arts internships for local teens

Even more profoundly, Yoon provided 225 hours of summer programming, offering paid internships in the arts for 30 youth, a contribution to the Rhode Island landscape that cannot be overestimated. Amidst a climate this year of hostility on the national level toward LGBT people of all ages, New Urban Arts sponsored the Untitlement Project, a writing and poetry program where youth unpacked identity, gender, privilege, power and sexuality.

And in a partnership that would make any established gallery envious, eight of Yoon's students are receiving scholarships in partnership with healthcare product company Henry Schein to create artwork for its corporate collection.

Helping to lift the field

Yoon has also demonstrated the desire to make the innovative Providence organization play a role in helping to "lift our field," as he puts it.

"As a national leader in arts and youth development, we’re also doing more consulting and advising work," he says. "We’re in an exciting partnership with Yollocalli, a Chicago-based youth arts program and locally, we’ve been working with Providence’s art teachers through the school department." Yoon also has plans for re-launching New Urban Arts' website and putting resources under a Creative Commons license, "so we can freely share our work," he says.

A banner year indeed, and perhaps a legacy year. For the latest news is that Yoon may be moving on from New Urban Arts in 2013, but leaving the achievements of 2012 is a true gift for Rhode Island, for Providence, and for teens who desperately need an outlet for expression, a place to hang out, and skills to learn.

 

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