Colorado Arts Advocacy Discussed In Our Nation’s Capitol

This years Future Of Music Policy Summit in Washington, DC brought together voices from across the nation to discuss arts advocacy, policy, and the steps being taken to grow and respond to the music industry’s ever evolving landscape. Community organizers, nonprofits, musicians, executives and managers (many from Colorado) came together to discuss social and political challenges being addressed all around the country.

Monday’s panel, Making it Work in Denver: Youth on Record, Collaborative Partnerships & Public Sector Engagement, highlighted many of the issues being faced by Colorado’s artists, and how todays political climate effects our music scene.

Margaret Hunt, Director of Colorado Creative Industries (CCI) and moderator of the panel brought attention to CCI’s mission statement and how they continually strive to make Colorado a more culturally diverse community. Her emphasis was specific relationships in our communities and where there is room to do transformative work. With that, Margaret introduced Jamie Duffy, Executive Director of Youth On Record.

Youth On Record is attempting (and succeeding in many ways) to increase high school graduation rates in struggling schools in Denver through after-school musical education. Jamie spoke about Youth On Records’ work, emphasizing concerns about the sort of future we are creating for our youth in Colorado. Jamie summarized her worries about the rifts in the scene saying, “In Denver, things are thriving for millennials, it’s a magical place. When you look deeper, the reality becomes harsher.”

Jamie stated that “In Denver, [slightly above 60%] of kids don’t graduate [on-time]. The neighborhood where Youth On Record’s office resides, there is a 12% high school graduation rate. The youth is in jeopardy. Amidst all of this, there exists a thriving musical scene in Colorado. What’s the point of art, if we can’t make the world better? Getting artists to come to the table first is the goal. Arts education increases graduation rates and those who participate are more likely to complete a college degree. Arts education is about creating the next generation of problem solvers. These individuals become more likely to vote and to volunteer in their communities. The reason we’re getting attention is because it’s working. Art matters. Music matters.”

Quick facts about Youth On Record:

  • Youth On Record is the #1 music provider for all of Denver Public Schools (DPS).
  • Their team is put into the most at-risk schools in Denver as an after school program.
  • They teach 36 four-credit classes at DPS. Priority is with the most at-risk youth. They currently work with 700 at-risk teens.
  • The program has had an 85% attendance rate improvement.
  • In the past 3 years, Youth On Record received $3.7 million in project investments, made possible by their partnership with the Denver Housing Authority.
  • Annually, $240k goes towards paying artists within the organization directly. If you work for Youth On Record, you get paid. This allows our artists to continue to do their art.

[For a more in-depth overview of Denver Public Schools graduation rates, please visit their site].

A good question was asked, “How did you pull this off in Denver?”

Jamie: Artists are good at taking risks, and Youth On Records’ risk worked out. Importantly, we worked with other sectors outside of the creative industries, namely housing and urban development and Denver Public Schools. In the end, we partnered with government.

Jamie emphasized the deep, meaningful relationships that these musicians can create. Youth On Record has plans to expand and possibly replicate this model in other states.

To learn more about how this organization is working in Colorado, check out the Youth On Record website.