March 16, 2020

A Virtual Spring Quarter and a Note from our ED

Greetings to our Youth in Focus friends and family,

One of the many reasons I love art and have spent the last 20+ years in arts education is that art helps bring people together and build community. For 25 years, Youth in Focus has brought youth together to learn, grow, discover what’s important to them, and share their story through photography. Along the way we’ve built an extended family of support from all of you over the years, as well. And yet, as concerns around COVID-19 escalated last week, we made the painful decision to suspend all classes, cancel the End of Quarter show scheduled for tonight, and work remotely. What we thought was a temporary 2-week interruption now calls for us to do what we do best as artists and art educators – come up with creative solutions to this unprecedented and unimaginable environment in which we now find ourselves.

The exciting news, is that the first two months of 2020 saw incredible growth and relevant new programming for Youth in Focus. We installed a new digital lab enabling our students access to state-of-the-art technology, had record enrollment for our winter quarter, launched our first-ever in-school-day program at Denny International Middle School with 40 7th graders, initiated or were in contract with multiple new partners to bring our program to youth in the community who need it most, and hired new teaching artists and office staff whose lived experiences better reflects the students we serve.

This commitment to increasing equitable access to quality arts education doesn’t stop because of the Coronavirus. In fact, as more youth face the instability of life without school structure and limited personal contact, our work is needed now more than ever. We are in the process of translating our programming to a virtual platform while we can't meet face to face (more to come soon), fully embracing the concept that the very best camera is the one you have access to (so go take pictures!), and will continue to pay our staff and teaching artists to develop new programming models and lessons for our current and new students. Art matters, our program matters, and we are committed to making sure students have access now and in the future.

For millennia, artists have created work that not only helps them grapple with the complexities of life and society, but asks the same of us. Through our questioning, analysis, close looking, and engagement with art, we find comfort, answers, and connection. Especially now, as we all face the myriad challenges of social distancing, and the potential isolation this brings, let us turn to art as a connector and builder of community – even if virtual. We hope you will join us and make art, explore art via online museum tours, and support artists and arts organizations who provide light and hope and possibility.

Sending our very best to each and every one of you. Stay safe, stay healthy, and find connection through art!

In community,

Samantha Kelly
Executive Director
(Email me, since I’m not in the office to receive phone calls. Happy to schedule a conversation to stay connected!)