The Young Artist Program (YAP) offers a unique alternative to traditional after-school activities. Committed to using art as a means of personal growth and social change, YAP prioritizes mental health and education for young people, specifically in the LGBTQ+ community and BIPOC youth.
We had the chance to speak with Mel Brown (she/they), co-founder of YAP, about why the nonprofit was started, the impact of the organization, and how you can get involved. After years of work surrounding queer youth, intergenerational spaces, and mental health advocacy, Mel Brown and co-founder Sam Merkt created YAP in 2017. Their main mission has always been to create a safe space for young people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community to learn, grow, discover, and express themselves through an endless variety of mediums in a youth-led after-school setting.
Prior to COVID-19, YAP existed in a way that allowed for the students involved to participate in any capacity that felt right to them. From simply having a safe space and a sense of community, to larger art projects and events, YAP is the all-inclusive space for young, queer, BIPOC people to play and experiment with different mediums to find out what they love. Staying true to their commitment, YAP provides students with both art instruction and opportunities for advocacy - prioritizing issues that affect queer youth, policy that affects young people, voting importance, and activism.
As all organizations have shifted during the pandemic, YAP shifted in a way that prioritized the students, their mental health, personal needs, and ongoing education - especially during these difficult times. Instead of operating in an in-person, after-school setting, students were paired for 1 on 1 sessions with adult accomplices or teaching artists, providing a more intimate and specialized experience for each YAP member.
As a parent organization and fiscal sponsor, being a member of CultureWorks has allowed The Young Artist Program to flourish and focus its energy on what truly matters: the students, the curriculum, resources, education, and fun!
“CultureWorks as our parent organization and fiscal sponsor has provided structure to what can feel like administrative madness. They house our program in such a huge fundamental way that without it, The Young Artist Program wouldn't be what it is today.”
If you want to get involved in The Young Artist Program, you can inquire about volunteer opportunities or attend the program on their website here.
“An important youth-centered program had just recently been defunded, and we knew there needed to be a safe space for young people. We have this desire to engage with young queer people because of our personal experiences as queer youth trying to navigate our own identity. It was