Youth Empowerment Through Creativity
Peggy Taylor is the co-founder and Director of Training at PYE as well as being a talented writer and musician with over 30 years of experience in group facilitation and experiential learning. She is currently writing a book about creativity and the ways it can be used to empower young people. Here she tells us a little about how PYE came about and why she is so pleased to be using the digital space to contact social artists around the world.
Imagine spending a week in a community where everyone is actively supporting you to be your most creative; where teens and adults are comfortable and collaborative with each other; where barriers between religion, culture, and age don’t seem to exist, where the community itself generates its own entertainment in the form of music, dance, theater, and art. This was our aim when we ran our first experimental arts-based camp for teens on Whidbey Island in North America’s Pacific Northwest 1996.
Twenty-nine youth and fifteen adults gathered at an enchanting retreat center run by the Whidbey Institute. The assembled community represented a wide range of cultures, ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and life situations. We spent five days exploring our values, hopes, and dreams and using the arts to tell our stories. Through whole group empowerment sessions, small group workshops, and community arts events, the people making up this unlikely crowd became fast friends. The youth actively worked to abandon common teenage mores like putting each other down. The adults made themselves vulnerable by pushing the edges of their own creativity. The results were so transformative, we knew we wanted to do more of this work.
A year later we started a program called The Power of Hope: Teen Empowerment through the Arts to provide more gatherings for youth. Power of Hope grew in leaps and bounds as youth and adult volunteers heard about the summer programs. The only thing that stood in the way of growing more programs was a shortage of trained social artists—dynamic program leaders who could work with a diverse community of 60-90 youth and adults in a creative environment for a week. Thus began our work defining our methods and training facilitators.
As Power of Hope solidified its base in the Pacific Northwest, we felt called to make programs like ours available in other communities. In 2006, the Bead for Life poverty eradication program in Kampala, Uganda, invited me to work with teens living with HIV/AIDS and to train youth workers and service providers in our methods. The next year Charlie Murphy led further trainings for adults in Kampala and an arts empowerment camp for Ugandan youth living with HIV/AIDS. In 2008, we formed PYE in order to continue taking this work to communities globally.
Since then we’ve partnered with people and organizations on five of the world’s continents, setting up lasting collaborations with hundreds of youth workers, artists, facilitators and social change agents. As we look back, we could never have anticipated the many wonderful people and projects PYE would introduce us to. People like you, the PYE community who read this blog regularly, are the lifeblood of this work.
We have articulated a proven methodology that helps to condense and communicate what it is that we do. We call it The Creative Community Model. This model combines the expressive arts, experiential learning, and creative facilitation to provide transformative learning experiences for teens and adults. The principles and practices can be used to lead multi-day residential camps, day camps, workshops, trainings, community gatherings or on going classes.
We are currently developing a digital space where people doing arts empowerment work around the world can meet, discuss their projects, and learn new practices. We invite you to join us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages. As of last month you can also find us on Pinterest.
We’d like to welcome you to our network of creative collaborators and to say thank you for being part of this unfolding journey. If you have any feedback, thoughts or stories to share simply drop by one of our social media channels and say hello. We love hearing from you.
Peggy’s book is very much a collaborative project. We will be posting extracts from the book to the blog on a regular basis. Please feel free to provide us with feedback or offer stories about your experiences working with young people and using the arts.
Enjoyed that? You might be interested in these articles:
Shalini recognized a real need for more networking and community among youth workers in Bangalore so she set up an organization called the Educators Collective.
A vibrant city of social artists and social change-makers, we take a look at life for social artists in Toronto.
Xola Yoyo is a youth worker in the Eastern Cape of South Africa who uses social artistry and creative facilitation to work with youth in rural environments.