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Engaging Adolescents: Building Youth Participation in the Arts

Scholarly Critique #1.2

I found this resource through a google search using the key terms “community” “arts” & “engagement”. In an effort to build my own action research agenda, I wanted to gain a better understanding of what research already exists on youth engagement with the arts. Hopefully, this background will allow my research team to clarify our focus to build upon the topic rather than attempt to reiterate what has already been said. This article also gives a helpful overview of some shared themes, including engagement (p.3) and “promoting positive outcomes for youth (for example, knowledge of self, connections, expressive skills, and competence)” (p. 5).

According to the National Guild for Community Arts Education, the goal of this publication is “to increase teen participation in the arts education by enhancing the effectiveness and scope of existing programs and catalyzing the development of new programs”. The following questions are pursued through this research:

  • What do adolescents want?

  • What do they need?

  • How do we reach them?

  • How do we sustain their involvement so they remain engaged in the arts?

This research was influenced by previous data collection that identified the need for training and development for those who provide community arts programs:

“When the National Guild for Community Arts Education surveyed its members recently, we learned that 100 percent of these community arts education providers ranked training and information on effective music and arts programs for adolescents as a high priority.”

The data and information is presented through eight “Program Profiles” or case-study type scenarios featuring a different organization. Each profile includes information about their relevant programming, engagement advice, and statistical information about how many students participate and the different ways they engage.

Additional tips for building strategies of engagement are also included, and feature specific recommendations for conducting your own research. I found the tips to be incredibly helpful in preparing my own research, and as an education program coordinator I find them particularly insightful. A resources section is also available which provides the links to referenced articles in the same section as the tips and supports the validity and credibility of the suggestions. I really enjoyed the graphic on page nine that outlines the frameworks for outcomes in youth arts programs as well; I found it a great way to visualize how engaging in the arts is connected to a sense of individual and community identity. Here is the original graphic from the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project:

The results of the study emerge as a collection of practices and resources to support program development. The case studies, ideas, and tips for conducting your own research are well written, linked to additional resources, and seem quite valid. Although the results are not documented in a figure, graph, or table, the dispersed knowledge of the diverse organizations is cohesive and well presented.

I found this resource to be incredibly valuable in my own research process due to the presentation of information in a case-study type format. My research team is planning on approaching our study with the same type of organization, and keeping a cohesive message throughout our studies across three very different communities will be a challenge.

Hirzy, E. (2011). Engaging adolescents: Building youth participation in the arts. National Guild for Community Arts Education. Retrieved from

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