Throughout the United States, thousands of creativity-based youth development programs combine principles of positive youth development with immersion in the creative process. Many of these programs refer to their work as creative youth development or CYD.
CYD is a diverse field, and programs include a constellation of creative disciplines and genres. A sample of programs from this varied field includes film making; sound engineering; many styles of dance from hip hop to modern to ballet folklórico; an array of 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional visual arts from cartooning to photography to sculpture; graphic design; game design; playwrighting; theatrical production; music performance and composition; journalism; and creative writing.
CYD programs share characteristics common among programs embracing positive youth development, including: setting high expectations for young people, encouraging positive risk taking, embracing youth leadership, and engaging young people in contributing to their communities and working for social justice.
The basic formula of CYD is the combination of a holistic approach to positive youth development with hands-on creative inquiry. The creative process at the heart of CYD programs contributes to tremendous and often transformative personal growth for youth participants (Heath, Soep, and Roach 1998; Hughes and Wilson 2004). Collective Action for Youth: An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development created during the 2014 The National Summit on Creative Youth Development, proclaims, “As young people create their own work in the arts, humanities, and sciences, they build the personal, social, and intellectual capacities they need to succeed in school, career, and life. And as they experience the creative process over an extended period, they learn that they can use it to express their own identities, understand and change the world around them, and connect to the greater human experience.”
These creativity-based programs take place in a variety of settings and contexts, including the following:
• Nonprofit organizations with a primary focus on CYD
• Programs occurring within larger arts organizations, for example within a museum
• Programs that are embedded within youth development organizations
• School-based programs, primarily via out-of-school time (OST) programs
• Community parks and recreation programs
• Other community contexts (e.g., programs for court-involved or incarcerated young people)
In recent years the heterogeneous field of practice of creative youth development programs has codified characteristics of high quality CYD through a series of frameworks. Primary examples include the frameworks featured in the Boston Youth Arts Handbook and Workbook, Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Seen & Heard CYD blog, The Mosaic Model for Youth Development Through the Arts, and Something to Say: Success Principles for Afterschool Arts Programs From Urban Youth and Other Experts. These frameworks support shared understanding of the work and can be tools to help programs strengthen practice and advance along a spectrum of quality, thereby increasing engagement and supporting more positive outcomes for youth.
At the same time, CYD practitioners are committed to reflection and ongoing refinement, to programs being actively shaped by young people, and being connected to and a reflection of their communities. Therefore, CYD program practices are continuously in development.
Drawing on the youth development literature, literature specific to creative youth development, and exchanges with CYD practitioners, in this landscape analysis I discuss five current trends in CYD program development. These five trends include: Holistic Approaches Growing as Needs Grow, Collaboration Across Sectors, New Generation of Program Staff with New Approaches, Scaling by Depth, and Establishing Creative Career Pathways. This is preceded by an overview of the historical foundation of CYD program development and summary of underpinning research. Following discussion of the trends I make recommendations for further exploration.
Afterschool Matters Journal, Spring 2020