It takes "courage" to listen to the "creative yearnings" of one's heart. It takes "courage" to ignore the naysayers who share stories about the "starving artist." It takes courage to pursue a dream that is not often seen as "practical or realistic."
Yet, like any other career, if one has the talent, discipline and motivation, success eventually comes. The National YoungArts Foundation was established to help young people become "successful" while providing much needed encouragement, instruction and financial support. Famous alumni such as Nicki Minaj, Kerry Washington, Terrence Blanchard, Vanessa L. Williams and Josh Groban, are just a small number of the highly-talented artists that have come through the program.
In this interview, representatives from this esteemed organization have graciously shared information on the numerous opportunities available with YoungArts.
A. The National YoungArts Foundation was established in 1981 by Lin and Ted Arison to identify and nurture future generations of artists and contribute to the cultural vitality of the nation by supporting the artistic development of talented young artists.
To date, YoungArts has honored more than 20,000 young artists with over $6 million in monetary awards; facilitated in excess of $150 million in college scholarship opportunities; and enabled its participants to work with master teachers who are among the most distinguished artists in the world, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Kathleen Turner, Placido Domingo, Frank Gehry, Bill T. Jones, Quincy Jones, Robert Redford, Arina Hoffman and Anna Deavere Smith.
YoungArts alumni become leaders in their field as Executive Director of American Ballet Theatre Rachel Moore, Academy Award winning writer of "12 Years a Slave," John Ridley, Emmy-nominated actress Kerry Washington, virtuoso violinist Jennifer Koh and Grammy Award nominated singer Josh Groban.
Q2. What are the categories and can a young person apply to more than one?
A. YoungArts currently supports artists in 10 artistic disciplines: Cinematic Arts, Dance, Design Arts, Jazz, Music, Photography, Theater, Visual Arts, Voice and Writing. Students ages 15-18 may apply to be recognized in more than one of these disciplines.
Applications to participate in 2015 programs will open on April 22, 2014. To apply and for more information, visit http://www.youngarts.org/apply.
Q3. Is there any particular category that is more competitive than the others?
A. All of our disciplines are very competitive. Each year, through a blind adjudication process, we select approximately 700 young artists from the more than 11,000 applications we receive from talented young artists (15-18 years old or grades 10-12) across the country.
A. All YoungArts Winners are designated into three categories -- Finalist, Honorable Mention and Merit. Finalists receive monetary recognition up to $10,000. All winners are eligible to participate in YoungArts' regional programs -- YoungArts Miami (February 12-17, 2014), YoungArts Los Angeles (March 18-23, 2014) and YoungArts New York (March 31-April 6, 2014); and in the Emmy-nominated HBO series YoungArts MasterClass.
Finalists are also invited to take part in our signature national program -- National YoungArts Week in Miami, during which they participate in a week of intense master classes and workshops with internationally-renowned artists and share their work with the public through performances, film screenings, an art, design and photography exhibition, writers' readings, and a jazz combo performance.
Additionally, YoungArts is the exclusive nominating agency for the U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts, the highest honor that can be awarded to any artistically talented graduating high school senior. Every year, YoungArts nominates 60 YoungArts winners to the White House appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars, 20 of whom are then selected to become U.S. Presidential Scholars in the Arts.
Q5. Judging art and creativity can be considered "subjective." How are the judges chosen and what do they look for?
A. YoungArts enlists reviewers that are artistically accomplished, respected within the field (as artists, practitioners and educators), and artistically and geographically diverse.
Q6. For those people who have been selected as a Finalist, what seems to be the common thread among them?
A. As some of the country's most promising artistic talents, all YoungArts Winners are incredibly dedicated and talented. Their training and backgrounds are as varied as their economic, ethnic, racial, and geographical differences.
Q7. There's been an ongoing push to encourage more kids to consider careers in science but not so much with art. Why do you feel that a career in art is just as important?
A. Steve Jobs once famously said that "technology was not enough -- it's technology married to liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our heart sing." If you listen to Neil de Grasse Tyson speak of the cosmos, it is with a poet's voice with which he speaks, full of awe and wonder. Artists inspire, they dream for us, they are the heart of our culture.
There is a convergence between creative thinking and scientific exploration. Albert Einstein said, "the greatest scientists are artists as well." What he meant by this is that great art is born from intuition and inspiration; it pushes boundaries, explores the unknown, asks tough questions. For Einstein, true scientific inquiry begins from that same place.
The arts are incredibly important to the character and vitality of this country. Through the arts, young people are encouraged to see the world through different lenses strengthening their ability to think dynamically and succeed in an ever changing society. Participation in, as well as an appreciation of, the arts brings people across many diverse groups together and allows them to see commonalities between them. Whether pursuing a career in the arts or utilizing them as a creative outlet, they encourage kids to explore the endless possibilities and benefits that can come from creative expression.
A. Parents who wish to help their children apply should sign up for the YoungArts matters e-newsletter and encourage their children to follow YoungArts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Through these channels, YoungArts shares news regarding upcoming opportunities, applications, programming, and alumni activities.
As for young artists, there are three VERY important things they can do:
The first is self-reflexive: figure out who it is you are as an artist. "Who am I as an artist?" What am I trying to say?" These are at once the most important and toughest question for an artist to answer.
The second is practice, practice, practice. No matter the artistic discipline, practice is essential to achieving those breakthroughs, those "aha" moments of clarity, that make you better.
The third is "listen." As the saying goes, "a smart man can learn from smart men, but a wise man can learn from everyone." Listen to the praise and the criticism. Artists learn the most when they are listening to what isn't working. Take in the criticism, absorb it, understand it and go back to the first and second most important things -- think about who you are as an artist, then practice, practice, practice.
Q9. Are there any new developments happening with YoungArts in terms of new categories or prizes?
A. Last year, YoungArts launched a Design Arts discipline with the cooperation of Frank Gehry, world renowned architect and one of YoungArts Artistic Advisors, to cultivate students with an interest in architecture and design. This year we have added a singer/songwriter subcategory to the Voice discipline for the 2015 application cycle.
Q10. Is there anything else that you would like to share?
A. All YoungArts applicants are eligible to opt into our student list service, which is designed to connect our applicants with more information about colleges and universities, art conservatories, performance and exhibition opportunities through summer arts festivals, and college scholarships.
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