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The Art Connection

P:EAR, in Portland, Oregon, artists mentor homeless and transitional youth through education, art and recreation to affirm personal worth and create more meaningful and healthier lives. Each year p:ear programs serve almost 900 homeless and transitional young people ages 15 to 24. Talking to the kids, the universal response is that they are seen, they are recognized for who they are, and they are encouraged to become more themselves. As research supports, and our experience shows, they find a previously-unavailable arc of meaning in their lives, they believe in the world of work and their positive place in it.

Photo of diane walton
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Written by

Artists mentoring youth.
NEED vision and precision.
A call to artists
A space to gather
A reason for the kids to come the first time, and then the next. and the next...
I like data, but I don't know how much you'd need to start this up. A lot would help keep it going...  I'd make data gathering a shared activity.

I think art helps those who make it, those who are around it, and those who buy it.

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

Benefits the kids served (p:ear being homeless, in transition 16-24 year olds). Benefits the artists. Benefits the community, known for high numbers of homeless youth. Prime mover is Beth Burns whose belief in the power of art to change lives has changed thousands of kids' lives.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

Learning the skills of an artist, a musician, a writer, a photographer opens up new opportunities for self-expression, and for work. Much work today requires a degree of creativity, and this time and space with artists will give these kids a level of confidence that you don't get any other way. People find jobs through their networks. This initiative expands the kids' networks exponentially.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

find a couple willing artists, find a youth-serving program open to trying new art-based mentorships, identify a time frame (90 days?) find a space for a pop-up show, sell art for the holidays and share proceeds among the artists, the kids, and the program.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

I want people in different communities across the country to emulate p:ear, to support meaningful connection between their artists and their kids. I also want ideas on reviving apprenticeship models in art.

The idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • I'm more throwing the idea out there to inspire potential implementers

1 comment

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Hi Diane, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. You should be able to use the Update Entry button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know by hitting the Feedback button at the bottom of most pages of our site if you face any problems. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

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