Empowering the next generation of artists: the Impact of YAYA Arts Center

By: Claire McKee, Izzy Von Simson, Gavin Galusha, and Seth Gelwarg

The arts are an area of education that is often overlooked and even discouraged. Young Aspirations Young Artists (YAYA) is an arts education program founded by Jana Napoli in 1988 to empower creative young people through entrepreneurship and educational experiences in the arts. To accomplish this mission, YAYA provides arts education to youth community members as a space to explore areas of interest they may not have access to in their schools.

YAYA arts community members. (Photo: YAYA)

While conducting our YAYA interview with the Programs Manager, Averi Matthews, we learned more about why YAYA is such an important organization to the New Orleans community. She explained how YAYA uniquely benefits the students of New Orleans because many of them do not have access to arts education in their schools or the resources to take arts courses elsewhere. YAYA is a free program for all students that allows them to exercise their creativity and build a community to call their second home.

Matthews holds a special place in her heart for the arts, and as a YAYA alum, she understands the positive impact that the organization’s programs can have on their students. Historically, the arts have struggled to gain the same recognition and implementation into school curricula as other subjects. Thus, they do not receive the same funding as other extracurricular activities, making it difficult for students interested in the arts to get involved.

YAYA has grown to boast three programs that provide unique and productive learning experiences for New Orleans students: Paint the World, Urban Heroes, and the Teen Guild. Matthews spoke highly of YAYA’s Paint the World and Urban Heroes programs and expressed the profound impact these programs have on the students of New Orleans. YAYA’s Paint the World program allows participating students to learn in an environment outside New Orleans. This program aims to give YAYA’s brightest and most committed students an opportunity to engage with cultures from other cities and countries.

Children in YAYA arts programming. (Photo by: YAYA)

Since its introduction in 2003, the Urban Heroes program has been bringing arts programming directly to the schools of New Orleans. As part of the Program, YAYA alumns and teaching artists travel to schools around the city to teach programming that adheres to the Louisiana Standards for Arts Education. These workshops aim to help students develop their creativity, critical thinking, and teamwork.

YAYA’s programming is certainly unique and productive for all students who wish to participate and explore different creative fields. However, additional offerings such as YAYA’s free tuition policy and full-time therapist set YAYA apart from other arts programs around the city. With these helpful tools, YAYA is positioned to benefit students in the New Orleans area.

YAYA creates a space for children and teens to have a creative outlet and learn about the arts if their schools do not provide arts education. It is a nonprofit organization, which presents challenges for its arts center and educational programs, but allows YAYA to provide free education for its students. The program’s success is a culmination of the work of the staff and the work of arts supporters throughout history; therefore, the history of arts education is essential to consider when it comes to all arts programs. 

Please click here to see our interview with Programs Manager Averi Matthews.

For more information visit the YAYA website.


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