PlatteForum, 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:
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.
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.
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.
Our 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.
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 interact 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
A 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
Program 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.