The Rapidian

UICA's youth program honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House

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UICA's ArtWorks program received the nation's highest honor for after-school programs from First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House.
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Chosen from a pool of more than 471 nominations and 38 finalists, UICA's ArtWorks program was one of just 12 after-school and out-of-school programs across the country and the only program in the Midwest to receive this prestigious award. The National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award is the nation’s highest honor for after-school arts and humanities programs. The awards recognize and support outstanding programs that lay new pathways to creativity, expression, and achievement outside of the regular school day. These programs excite and engage a range of students, cultivating imagination, collaboration, discipline and academic success, with demonstrable results. They also provide safe harbors after school, on weekends and evenings for children and youth in some of our country’s most at-risk urban and rural settings. For more visit

As part of UICA’s ArtWorks Program, young people like Ja’ Qauri Moore Bass have created work that has helped beautify Grand Rapids and helped them grow as artists and people. On November 2, Ja’Qauri stood in the East Room of the White House and accepted the 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from First Lady Michelle Obama.

“Having the chance to represent my peers in accepting this award from the First Lady of the United States in the White House was an experience that I’ll never forget,” said Moore-Bass. “It showed me that the power of programs like ArtWorks to change kids’ lives is recognized and valued.”

ArtWorks was created to ready young people (ages 14–21) for 21st century creative careers. The program utilizes contemporary art as a learning platform to promote active and creative citizenship, as well as provide studio experiences, professional resources, and opportunities for students to present themselves and their work to the community. Since its founding in 2001, the program has engaged more than 1,000 young people.

“By engaging and inspiring young people, ArtWorks is giving them not just the vision but the skills to build a new and better life for themselves and their families, and for our community,” said Kathryn Chaplow, Board President, UICA. “These young people are learning how to use creative thinking to work as a team, to solve problems and to express themselves constructively. These are exactly the kinds of skills we want them to have to be able to succeed in school, in work and in life.”

In addition to the national recognition bestowed by receipt of the prestigious award, ArtWorks also received $10,000 to support its programming and engage more young people from the community.

“We hope this award will draw attention to the documented fact that programs like ours are essential investments not just in the lives of our young people, but in our community, as well,” said Becca Guyette, Manager of Youth and Community Services for UICA. “We’re incredibly proud of this achievement and of the young people, volunteers, supporters, board and staff who made it possible.”

The award honors UICA’s ArtWorks program for making a marked difference in the lives of their youth participants by enhancing life skills, developing positive relationships with peers and adults, and expressing themselves creatively.

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