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Guiding Practices


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Paul Hillman

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Las Artes de Maricopa

An Innovative Program for Maricopa County Youth

Celebration and Honoring of youth participants on Wed., June 11th, 2008, 0830-1000.

The open house began at the corner of 43rd Ave. and Missouri, Phoenix, in the heart of a lower economic income community on a main street that cuts through the neighborhood.

The day’s event was to honor youth 16-21 years of age who had secured their GED promoted by arts training. This process was made possible through a collaboration of organizations: PSA Art Awakenings, Valley of the Sun YMCA, Maricopa Workforce Connections, & Maricopa County Human Services Dept. (The butterflies in the background are symbols for metamorphosis - Las Artes is a metamorphosis of youth life. Accomplishment is the goal.)

This was a festive occasion!

The in-house program is driven by Key People: Director Mike Graser with YMCA, PSA Art Awakenings President Gustavo McGrew (pictured above), lead artist Martin Moreno, educator Liz Penny, and Luisa Rodriguez Las Artes Administration Assistant.

"A changed life is hard to measure, but it’s not hard to find." said Matt Sandoval (pictured below), YMCA Community Initiatives Executive Director who emceed the Las Artes de Maricopaopen house of July 11. 

Case Worker for Las Artes is Eric James, who has been with the program for 6 months, arriving from Los Angeles.

Funding for this 4 month long training, given legislative action through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), provided educational opportunities for these 22 youth who had not demonstrated successful academic achievement in a traditional school setting.

Criteria of placement required testing to determine at least a 7th grade level of leaning.

Support of the community and community policy makers is essential in any project of this kind that becomes successful and sustainable in the community where the participants reside.

Mary Rose Wilcox receives a Cesar Chavez tile made by a Las Artes student, Nathan Maldonado, for her efforts through the Maricopa Board of Supervisors to implement and fund this community project.
Mary Rose thanked the other speakers of the day, but wanted to direct her primarily thank you’s to the youth for their achievements. "This program demands of a youth to explain oneself artistically and thereby automatically leads to educational success."
A changed life is hard to measure, but it’s not hard to find.

The primary objective of 4 months duration is for each youth to receive one's GED, plus guidance in job application and the creation of a resume: One half of the day spent creating art the other half on scholastic achievement.

When asked by Fatimah Halim of students, "What did you get out of these art classes?"  Reply: "We learned tolerance for others by having to work closely together and rely on one another."

All anyone had to do was look around at the Las Artes students, 16-21 years old, who gave tours and art demonstrations and spoke eloquently about their personal life struggles they are striving to overcome to lead successful lives. Students described learning about teamwork and the importance of finishing what you start including acquiring a GED through Las Artes. This unique program combines classroom instruction and studio work experience that encourage success in life.  Followed by the goal of earning a GED, Las Artes includes job search support, employment opportunities, leadership and team building.  Since the programs inception last September, 11 students have acquired GEDs and 14 others are presently working through the GED process. Eleven have earned skill attainment certificates and 11 completed work readiness activities.  Forty-two are currently attending the program which is a collaborative effort between Maricopa Workforce Connections, Maricopa County Human Services Dept., PSA Art Awakenings, and Vally of the Sun YMCA.  For more information, call Mike Graser, Program Director, 623-937-8426, or visit Las Artes at 4306 West Missouri, Glendale.
Karen Puthoff, PSA Art Awakenings.

The mosaic tile artworks:

The subject of the mosaic artworks were revealed as broad scoped: Fun!

Thoughtful and respectful!


Traditional (tiles not yet fired)

And profound in the messages conveyed and symbolically understood:
Tenemos Que Mantener Viva La Tradicion!

(Above)Studio Assistant Saashley, PSA, explains mosaic tile art.

This program demonstrates a love of participation facilitated by a thoughtful staff that drives positive outcomes.

Surrounding community:

A story with a message of interdependency and interconnected through extended community support.  Las Artes is a metamorphosis of youth life. Accomplishment is the goal.

Review by judy butzine
Co-founder and Co-director of the
Cultural Arts Coalition

The Mission of the Cultural Arts Coalition, Arizona: 501 (c) 3
Identifying, supporting, promoting, celebrating, and documenting those community arts practices that stimulate social awareness and honor diverse cultural values, and develop the critical thinking skills necessary to be creative and solve problems. As a networking group, the coalition strives to provide a safe place for persons of all ages and backgrounds to gather and achieve a sense of belonging and respect within a larger community and to explore arts-related skills in a facilitated environment.