Free Arts Minnesota
Free Arts Minnesota works with youth in challenging circumstances to support artistic and personal development through a unique combination of mentorship and arts learning. We help strengthen communities by partnering with social service agencies, community organizations, and local artists; engaging underserved youth with the arts allowing creativity to drive learning; building positive mentoring relationships; and expanding arts programming to under-resourced neighborhoods.
Free Arts is a secondary organization, meaning we travel to our partner sites to do art with youth that are already enrolled in their programming. We work with youth 3-18 years of age who have experienced the trauma and stress of poverty, domestic or sexual violence, mental health issues (anxiety, depression, etc.), addiction, and/or homelessness. Because we have 25 different partner sites throughout the Twin Cities area, we would not have the ability to run programming as we do without the help of over 100 volunteers each week. Our volunteers build trusting relationships with the youth by providing a safe, supportive, and consistent experiences while working alongside them as they engage in art projects. Our volunteers are required to go through multiple checkpoints before they are sent out to one of our partner sites to work with the youth. These checkpoints include a background check, volunteer application, volunteer training, and a partner site orientation.
We have two art programs that our volunteers can take part in: Weekly Mentorship and CREATE Workshop. Weekly Mentorship is the bedrock of our programming and the more intensive of the two volunteer opportunities. Volunteers commit to an entire term (Spring/Fall term= 12 weeks; Summer term= 8 weeks), in which they go out weekly to a partner site and engage in an hour of art programming with the youth. Weekly Mentorship takes place at our partner sites that work with/house the youth for three months or more, therefor the volunteers are building long-lasting relationships over the term due to the fact that they are seeing the same youth each week. These volunteers are also in charge of creating the projects they lead, but we ask them to get input from the youth before creating them. This gives meaning to the projects and helps with youth engagement.
Within the Weekly Mentorship program, we are sometimes able to place local artists into groups to teach a 3-8 week intensive program diving deep into a specific art form. We value all types of art (visual, theatrical, music, dance, etc.), therefor we try to incorporate a wide-range of talented instructors with different experiences and backgrounds. We are intentional in where we place artists because we want to make sure that the art form is relevant to the youth that will be taking part in the lessons. We value each and every one of our artists and pay them adequately for their time and efforts they bring to the table.
CREATE Workshop is a less intensive program in which volunteers commit to at least 3 sessions over an entire term. These sessions with the youth are less frequent (1-2 times a month), but longer (1.5-2 hours), and take place at our partner sites where youth are in high transition (average stay is less than 3 months). Projects are in depth and intensive; they are created by the Free Arts staff, but chosen by the partner site staff before the term begins to make sure that the art will be relevant and engaging for the cohort of youth they may have at that time.