About PlatteForum

P1030070PlatteForum, a 501 (c)3 non profit organization, is an award-winning and innovative arts, youth-development, and artist-in-residence program in Denver that teams underserved urban youth (K-12) with contemporary master artists in intensive, structured, and long-term creative learning environments. Youth work side by side with resident artists to collaboratively plan, produce, and exhibit a body of work in an environment in which artistic excellence is highly valued. Youth in PlatteForum’s programs delve into a variety of art forms, confronting challenges and obstacles and making life-changing discoveries about who they are, what they are capable of achieving, and where they belong in the world.

PlatteForum, as an artist community, supports the creation and presentation of new art and ideas by contemporary artists. By supporting working artists, PlatteForum generates dialogue in the larger community about the role of the artist in society. Located in a rich urban context, PlatteForum’s dynamic, artist-centered residences are built upon the notion of engaging the broader community in the creation of new work, where artists, youth, and the public collaborate. Each resident artist becomes a catalyst for innovative and expanded thinking about what art is and can be.

We strive to:

  • Be an “urban laboratory” for the creation of art—blending traditional and experimental art forms.
  • Strengthen individual artist practice by providing them time, space, stipend and resources to take their work to the next level.
  • Collaborate with other arts, cultural, educational, and youth-serving organizations.
  • Be a vibrant arts center that is a resource in building a strong community.
  • Provide opportunities for underserved youth to be mentored by professional artists.
  • Support the professional lives of artists and provide opportunities for inspiration and transformation.
  • Present new art forms through collaboration to the community.

Our programs are grounded in a belief that the arts are one of the primary means through which we can develop a vibrant and thriving community of healthy, compassionate, and innovative individuals. Though a vehicle of consistent, high-quality programming, the lives of youth we serve–those who have the fewest opportunities and lack access to the arts and mentoring relationships–are transformed. We provide a safe environment for youth to explore events in their lives, take risks, create and present art, receive critical feedback, learn from professional artists, learn to work as part of a team, and develop personal, academic, and life skills that stay with them forever.

How We Do It
PlatteForum’s programs work like this: Each year, five accomplished professional artists are selected through a competitive international selection process and invited to spend two months each in residency in our Artist Residency program, which concludes with a two-week public exhibition of the artist’s work. In addition to creating a new or expanded body of work, each resident artist dedicates 6-8 hours weekly to intensive workshops with youth. These interactive workshops, or Learning Labs, build on the ideas and forms of the resident artist and culminate in a body of work by youth that is exhibited alongside their artist mentor’s work, beginning with a public reception at which artists and kids talk about their work. ArtLab is a year-round, out-of-school paid internship program for high school students in which youth participate in the creation and presentation of major artistic/creative works, are mentored by professional artists, participate in workshops directed by visiting artists and university professors, mentor younger children, and participate in service-learning projects. ArtLab youth spend an average 2-3 years and more than 350 hours annually at PlatteForum in the ArtLab program. They are also paid to participate—something that is critical for the youth we serve and provides yet another layer of learning by instilling a work ethic and a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
Who We Serve
Annually, we serve more than 1,000 youth, families, artists, and community members. Our programs are designed to support working artists, enrich the community, and increase academic success in youth while reducing problem and delinquent behaviors to help youth identify and reach educational and personal goals. We provide programs to undeserved K-12 youth in the Denver Metro area who have little or no access to the arts. Many youth in our programs face daily challenges that include violence, stress, negative peer pressures, lack of resources in public schools / communities, financial hardships, food insecurity, living in economically depressed neighborhoods, transient living situations, involvement with the juvenile justice system, generational poverty, and unstable school attendance. We also serve several partner organizations that serve the same target youth demographic. 
PlatteForum Values
  • Creativity—we approach art as a process, not simply a product, and embrace risk in the pursuit of growth
  • Connection—we bring people together for greater understanding and appreciation of art, and of one another
  • Authenticity—we promote the honest evolution of each individual and cultivate relationships grounded in openness and trust
  • Engagement—we develop passion for a lifetime of discovery and innovation
PlatteForum Core Competencies
  • Design and manage arts-based youth development programs
  • Foster collaboration among artists, youth, and community
  • Create unique artist residencies in an urban context and community setting
  • Promote artistic excellence and innovation
  • Support a broad and deep range of genres and types of artists
How We Are Different

We are one of the first urban residencies in the United States. Through our brand of unique programming, we engage artists, youth, and community in ways that spark imaginations and improve the quality of life for all involved. We provide effective out-of-school creative learning that is long-term, consistent, intensive, in-depth, and high in artistic quality to address the problem of little to no access to arts-based learning in schools our youth attend. Outside of PlatteForum, there are virtually no opportunities for youth to publicly exhibit work they have created in any context, talk about their inspiration with people who come to view their work, or experience the thrill of an exhibition in which they are featured. We provide stimulating, multidimensional learning designed to empower, enrich, and support youth, while positively impacting the personal, academic, and professional skills they must develop and strengthen for success; this approach augments traditional educational environments to better meet students’ needs.

We work with professional resident artists who we select through a competitive international selection process to work side by side with youth to expose youth to extraordinary levels of artistic excellence and contemporary creative processes, and we expect a high level of commitment from students to deep, exploratory work. To support older youth as they prepare to graduate from high school and enter college, and recognizing that they often lack someone dedicated to helping them navigate this challenging time, we created the College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP). CAMP is a two-year one-to-one mentoring program in which youth are paired with adult mentors who follow PlatteForum’s detailed 18-month curriculum to guide youth through the college preparatory process. CAMP involves empowering the families of youth in the form of community workshops and parental advising about early awareness opportunities, financial aid, careers, and the college application process. To instill responsibility and recognize effort, we pay older youth a stipend to participate. We maintain a highly specialized staff, all of whom hold advanced degrees in their fields and are models for youth.

Our Results
Since 2009, 100% of ArtLab interns have graduated from high school (about half were the first in their family to do so), and 75% attended college after graduation. Over the last two years, however, 100% of our graduating seniors attended college after high school. These youth have all participated in our College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP).
Youth participating in our programs grow by leaps and bounds as compared to their peers; they feel better about themselves, report a stronger sense of self, take better responsibility for their actions, and generally feel better about their future. Kids in our programs are exposed to and learn a variety of artistic techniques, concepts, and skills that enhance traditional school-based curriculum, while cultivating supportive and positive relationships with peers, adults, and community. Our youth vastly improve in self-confidence, academic performance, college readiness, community involvement, and leadership, and they thrive in our safe, secure, and inspiring environment that allows them to develop and strengthen self-efficacy. Through CAMP, 100% of our older youth graduate from high school; 80% (100% in 2010/2011) immediately go to college.

Youth and community alike acquire a stronger understanding of the role arts play in our community as well as the role of the artist in society through collaboration with professional artists. Creative residents report that our Artist Residency significantly impacts their personal and professional growth as artists. Artists have profound experiences at PlatteForum that they have not have anywhere else.

PlatteForum is part of The Arts Evaluation Group, an initiative of Colorado’s state arts agency, Colorado Creative Industries.

 



History and Mission

MISSION

jessica_LL_single2aOur mission: Through the creative process, PlatteForum gives hope and direction to underserved youth who collaborate with master artists from around the world. This experience transforms the lives of the artists, the youth and the community.

artists. youth. community.
Transform lives through art.

Art strengthens the soul of the community; it opens up new pathways and deepens understanding of ourselves and our world. PlatteForum is a 501 (c)3 non-prorfit organization.

HISTORY

In 2002, Judy Anderson and Mark Smith (East West Partners) co-founded PlatteForum in Denver, Colorado, to address diminishing access to the arts in public schools and provide a place for artists to have the time and support to create new work. Believing that the arts are a means to develop a vibrant community of healthy, compassionate, and innovative people, these two visionaries created a place where underserved kids could vincent_LL_single1interact with professional artists participating in one of the first community engaged urban artist-in-residence programs in the United States. PlatteForum is a safe environment where kids can explore events in their lives, take risks, create and present art, receive critical feedback, learn from professional artists, learn to work as part of a team, and develop academic and life skills that will stay with them forever. Using arts-based learning as a vehicle (PlatteForum’s programs are not geared toward teaching youth to become artists, although we support youth who choose that path), we offer youth opportunities to find their voice and reach for their dreams. PlatteForum’s programs benefit artists, youth, and community through four primary programs: ArtLab, College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP), Learning Labs, and Artist Residency.

PlatteForum’s programs are designed to increase academic success while reducing problem and delinquent behaviors, providing a springboard from which youth can identify and reach educational and personal goals. Our programs make a difference because they provide long-term, intensive, out-of-school creative learning to address the problem of little or no access to arts-based learning in schools. Outside of PlatteForum, there are virtually no opportunities for youth to publicly exhibit work they create, talk about their inspiration, or experience the thrill of an exhibit in which they are featured. PlatteForum provides stimulating, multidimensional learning designed to empower, enrich, and support youth.

Improving High School Graduation Rates and College Access
CAMP-miles-davidA core goal of ours is a 100% high school graduation rate for our high-school-age youth participating in the ArtLab program, which we proudly meet each year. To support older youth as they prepare to graduate from high school and enter college, all ArtLab youth participate in our College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP). CAMP is a two-year, one-to-one mentoring program in which youth are paired with adult mentors who follow PlatteForum’s detailed 18-month curriculum to guide youth through the college preparatory process. CAMP also empowers the families of youth in the form of community workshops and parental advising about early awareness opportunities, financial aid, careers, and the college application process. About 80% go on to college, which is impressive considering most are first-generation college students who attend high schools with overall graduation rates of under 50%.

Awards and Recognition
Today, more than 11 years later, over 2,200 kids have participated in PlatteForum’s programs, more than 70 artists have been in residence, and countless numbers of community members have become part of the PlatteForum community through openings and exhibitions, partnerships with other organizations, and an extensive network of committed volunteers. In 2006, we were recognized with the Mayor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2011, PlatteForum was recognized as one of the best youth arts programs in the United States when it received the National Arts and Humanities Youth

mike_henry_LL_single3Program Award from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Judy and Sal, a youth representative and ArtLab alumnus, traveled to Washington D.C. to receive the award from First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2012, PlatteForum received another great honor: Selection to participate in the national Connected Learning Research project, part of The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s $85-million Digital Media and Learning Initiative. Researchers studying PlatteForum and other organizations are examining youth participation in connected learning environments to explore and evaluate outcomes of interest development, persistence in learning, civic participation, and development of a positive sense of the future.

Annually, PlatteForum serves more than 1,000 people through our programs, events, and community involvement. Of every dollar raised to support PlatteForum’s programs, 83% goes directly to programming for artists and youth.

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