Arts education needs a serious refresh. Sure, ‘C’ is still in the middle. An 8-count is still eight counts. Red and blue still make purple. But we have to acknowledge the gap between conventional arts education and our students that’s growing wider every year.
In 2020, a group of my longtime creative collaborators and I put our energy and experience together and created Yeah, Art!, a nonprofit making arts education more inclusive, accessible and relevant.
We bring working artists to schools to lead workshops on performing and digital arts.
But our workshops aren’t just taught with the old-school greats like Mozart, Van Gogh or Shakespeare — they’re taught with the new-school greats who look, sound and move more like our students. Like Kendrick Lamar, Lin Manuel Miranda and Issa Rae.
By blending classic theory, new technology and the pop culture that kids are loving right now, Yeah, Art! inspires young creative minds to engage with art in more meaningful ways.
Art is an endangered subject. Yeah, Art! is based in Oakland, California, where schools face $33.5 million in budget cuts in 2021, following $25 million in cuts in 2020. Arts programs are often the first to be sacrificed in these cuts. Yeah, Art! provides an accessible solution to keep art in classrooms, with a focus in the low-income districts that need our services the most.
Arts education is not diverse enough. Not even close. Across history, text books have erased the contributions of people of color. This is glaringly apparent in arts education, with European artists and western conventions being celebrated as the ideal. Yeah, Art! centers the work of historically excluded artists, exposing the next generation to new creative heroes.
Yeah, Art! believes you can’t be what you can’t see. Or at least, it’s much more difficult to be what you can’t see. The Yeah, Art! staff is comprised of professional working artists living in the Bay Area, who represent the diversity of our students. Our administrative team is 80% BIPOC, marketing team 80% BIPOC, and teaching team 87% BIPOC.
The Yeah, Art! curriculum not only centers BIPOC art and stories, we also teach students the historical and cultural context of those contributions. For example, we teach the history of art as protest, connecting the creative dots all the way from “We Shall Overcome” to “A Change Is Gonna Come” to this summer’s viral TikTok social justice anthems like “You About To Lose Yo Job” and “I Need You To” by Tobe Nwigwe. “Racial equity” is not a branch of what Yeah, Art! does or a simple afterthought — it’s everything we do and the reason we exist.
Our classes represent the changing landscape of art and technology, with class offerings like:
Song Ingredients: What’s a beat made of? —
Making a song is kind of like baking a cake. You start with flour. That’s our beat. Milk is our melody. Our bass line is the egg that glues it all together. Then we top it off with some harmony sprinkles. In the Yeah, Art! song production workshop, students learn through metaphor and modern references how to make something sound sweet.
Sangin’ with an A: Vocal workshop —
Vocal workshops aren’t just for singers. Anyone with a voice can learn how to control it — make it bigger, softer, more expressive and signature. In the Yeah, Art! vocal workshop, students learn how to find and master their own unique voices by mixing classical techniques with modern examples of artists they look up to.
The New Self Portrait: Identity workshop —
Is it possible to turn yourself into art? Brands do it all the time — distilling complex ideas and stories into a single logo or tagline. In the Identity workshop, kids get to make their own personal logo and tagline based on what makes them unique, while learning the funda