Youth Voice at ArtWell

Youth Voice at ArtWell by Program Director Julia Terry


At ArtWell we understand that young people do not need adults to give them a voice, they already have strong opinions and important stories to share. It is our role and responsibility as a community to listen, trust, support, inform, strengthen and amplify their voices. Recently, we have had a lot of conversations about Youth Voice, the unique and active ways young people represent themselves throughout society.

In a conversation with our Youth Leadership Council, one high school student shared, “A resource missing for youth is an opportunity to represent ourselves. Kids are often having conversations being made about them, but never allowed to be a part of these conversations. Adults often assume they know what’s best for us without asking us.” We know this to be true and are committed to continue to interrogate our relationship with the young people we work with and develop structures and understanding to better serve as a resource and platform in and out of the classroom, broadening our existing approach which provides safe space and creative tools for youth to share, reflect and express their experiences, dreams and identities.

At our Board Retreat last weekend, we unpacked what Youth Voice is and could be at ArtWell, with the understanding that it not only benefits young people, but impacts everyone—grounding our work in context, giving us hope and clarity, and encouraging equity and democracy. We understand that growing Youth Voice in our organization takes work, intention and capacity building for both adults and youth. Impassioned by the collaborative spirit of our leaders, we are eager to take steps toward more opportunities for students to inform and lead our programs, and have wider influence beyond ArtWell.

One next step that we are thrilled to announce is the merging of our Youth Leadership Council with our partner organization’s Youth Advisory at Norris Square Neighborhood Project (myneighborhoodproject.org). Our collective staff and youth leaders believe this alliance will be a transformative and innovative way to share our resources, model strength through inter-dependence, provide our youth with equitable compensation and increased opportunities, and connect across communities and neighborhoods for greater impact. Stay tuned for updates after our official launch meeting next month and keep considering the role of Youth Voice in your life and communities!