Since 1981, YoungArts has nurtured thousands of talented young people on their journeys and provided invaluable opportunities for teen artists in Miami and across the nation. Founded by Lin and Ted Arison, YoungArts is a one-of-a-kind organization that not only recognizes the country’s brightest artistic talents through financial awards and presentation opportunities but also offers them the exciting chance to learn from iconic mentors.

In addition to supporting young artists, YoungArts also strives to provide a safe haven for LGBTQ and gender-fluid teens. Not only are many of the master teachers and panel chairs members of the LGBTQ community themselves, but a considerable amount of the artwork crafted every year also captures the ever-evolving concepts of gender fluidity and LGBTQ identity. The YoungArts experience doesn’t simply seek to offer a comfortable space for LGBTQ and gender-fluid kids to nurture their artistic talents; it endeavors to serve as a support system that changes their lives forever.

Each year, thousands of hopeful entrants between the ages of 15 and 18 (or Grades 10 through 12) take the leap into YoungArts’ extremely competitive application process. Young Americans in the performing, literary, and visual arts are eligible to throw their hats into the ring for the chance to win a highly coveted honor. Judged by a discipline-specific panel of accomplished artists, each entrant has the chance to be counted among the top ten percent of applicants and be distinguished as an official YoungArts winner.

For teens who are passionate about making a career in art, earning a spot as a YoungArts winner isn’t just something to be extremely proud of — it’s a life-altering event that can pave the way for a bright future. And for the larger artistic community, the annual competition plays an instrumental role in discovering emerging artists and welcoming them to the global art scene.

And for the YoungArts teens, there’s no better place to see their future potential in action than in their master teachers and program mentors. YoungArts alumnus Christopher Castellani is just one of the pillars of the program, currently fulfilling the role of Writing Panel Chair. Like so many of the YoungArts winners, he is LGBTQ-identifying and infuses his works with his unique perspective and experiences. His newest book focuses on literary icon Tennessee Williams and his lover, as Castellani serves as the inaugural writing alumnus for the Betsy X YoungArts residency this March.

Providing Life-Changing Opportunities for Students to Follow Their Artistic Ambitions

YoungArts receives about 8,000 applications a year, and through a blind adjudication process, only the top ten percent of hopefuls move forward. For these select few, national and regional programs (including one based in Miami) provide a wide range of opportunities, such as significant financial awards, nationwide artistic presentations, and a chance to be nominated as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts — and that’s just in their first year as YoungArts winners.

The prevailing artists can also network and collaborate with their YoungArts peers through the YoungArts Post, a digital network designed to connect young talents all over the United States. And the winners don’t just work together in the virtual landscape; YoungArts also brings them together for a number of educational programs. These regional programs, such as YoungArts Miami, not only make a difference in the lives of the participants but also make significant contributions to the local arts scene by providing unique performances and exhibitions for the community to enjoy.

Connecting Young Talent with Renowned Artistic Leaders

One of the highlights of the YoungArts program is the way it establishes life-altering connections between young talents and world-famous mentors. YoungArts winners work closely with luminaries such as Frank Gehry, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Debbie Allen, and countless others, so the teens learn from the very best in their respective disciplines.

During YoungArts Miami and other regional programs, the teen artists participate in a range of educational programs and experiences led by passionate and talented instructors. Emmet Cohen, a YoungArts alumnus and current YoungArts Miami jazz director, says his role as a master teacher is to “provide all of the resources necessary to give a young artist the best chance of long-term personal and artistic growth… My idea of teaching involves placing students on a path where they feel inspired to teach themselves and learn on their own accord for the coming days, months, and years ahead.”

A past YoungArts winner himself, Cohen recalls the excitement and inspiration of being selected as one of the best young artists in the nation. Now, he says the experience of stepping into a teaching role is truly one of “symbiotic inspiration.”

Making a Difference in Miami and the U.S. for Nearly Four Decades

In its nearly four decades of recognizing teen artists, YoungArts has played a significant part in the careers of many of today’s most respected talents. Among the well-known names that have emerged from YoungArts are Viola Davis, Josh Groban, Terence Blanchard, Desmond Richardson, Allegra Goodman, and Daniel Arsham. More recently, blossoming young artists such as Shenequa Brooks, Paloma Izquierdo, Nadia Wolff, and Mark Fleuidor have made an impression on their YoungArts teachers and the local art world. As part of an alumni community made up of 20,000 artists and counting, these and other successful industry leaders have used their YoungArts victories as stepping stones toward accomplished careers.

Loni Johnson, a YoungArts master teacher and the co-director of the Visual Arts Program at YoungArts Miami, believes it is her responsibility to “serve as a mentor to the winners, to present all of the possibilities that being an artist can grant, to see them as individuals, and provide support for them.” As for her contributions to the local art community as a whole, she’s proud to say that through YoungArts and other work, she’s been able to “engage and encourage dialogue within our communities through the vehicle of the arts.” She adds, “It’s my duty as a black artist to contribute to how our narratives are being told and redefine how and what dialogues are being had.”

Are you interested in learning more about YoungArts and this year’s art program in Miami? Visit the YoungArts website for more details today.

Read More:

Miami For Teens
Transgender Art, Community and Culture In Miami
Black Miami Artists That Everyone Should Know
Gay Miami Art And Film Guide


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