The owners of a new café in the Treme neighborhood recently commissioned a local artist to paint a mural inside the building. Quinton Gilmore, an artist-mentor with Young Aspirations Young Artists, Inc., brought two of the organization’s teen students with him so they could learn how to paint a mural and gain experience working on a public art project.
 
Such are the advantages of being a member of YAYA, a non-profit organization that works to empower creative young people to become successful adults. While YAYA has expanded through the years – it worked with nearly 3,000 students in 2015 alone – the organization wasn’t always this big. It started as an after-school enrichment program in 1988, created through a partnership between local artist Jana Napoli and Rabouin High School, now the International High School of New Orleans.
 
Today, YAYA has 50 major art installations in the Greater New Orleans area, and 40 percent of its participants have gone on to become employed in creative and cultural industries. And YAYA is growing, having opened a high-quality arts campus in Central City in 2015. “We’ve been in the new art center for two years, and having it has allowed us to create a hub of artistic activity,” says Meg Miles, YAYA’s executive director.  
 
The new center has enabled YAYA to expand its programming, and it now hosts an array of classes that coach students in everything from international art to resume writing. Some programs focus on art fundamentals, such as glassblowing and ceramics, while others concentrate on teaching business savvy to students hoping to work as artists in the future.
 
“Teaching them through the lens of arts, the kids in the program develop business literacy,” Miles says. At YAYA’s heart is a desire to fuel artistic passion and then apply it to the real world. By helping its students travel, work and create, YAYA is creating a new group of young artists ready to take the world by storm... or by paintbrush.

 

For more information, visit yayainc.org. Claire Davenport is an intern at Nola Family Magazine.