PlatteForum’s core programs are Artist Residency, ArtLab, and Learning Lab. Additionally, we offer the College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP), in which all ArtLab youth participate.

portrait-teriArtist Residency is a unique, competitive artist-in-residence program that provides artists the time, space, and support to create new artistic work and share their creative process with youth and the community. Each artist leads a series of Learning Labs with the same cohort of youth during the entire residency period. Each year we offer five residencies that last eight weeks each. Artistic excellence, merit, and creative ideas for interacting with youth and the public are important criteria in the selection process. 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.

ArtLab is an intensive, year-round, out-of-school youth development program and internship for underserved, marginalized high school youth that incorporates concepts of creative learning with academic, personal, and professional skill development. In ArtLab, students learn through the arts and acquire innumerable skills—from critical-thinking, public speaking, and time-management skills to the ability to apply creative processes to difficult situations in their lives. ArtLab students work side by side with professional artists to create and present new work in an atmosphere that values diversity and fosters creativity, competence, asset development, mentoring, trust, and teamwork. ArtLab youth stay in the program for 2-3 years and spend over 350 hours annually engaged in programming at PlatteForum.


Key goals of the ArtLab program are to instill responsibility by setting professional expectations for and with youth with regard to their work as interns, recognize effort by paying wages (critical for the youth we serve), and develop college and workforce readiness in youth through skill development and one-on-one mentoring, software and technology training, and instruction on topics such as resume/interview preparation, careers, and public speaking. We use the arts to help youth build critical skills that improve their confidence, self-efficacy, and knowledge.

ws7Learning Lab is a program in which K-12 youth are teamed with contemporary professional artists in residence in long-term, intensive sessions during the artist’s residency at PlatteForum. Kids work side by side with resident artists to explore the artist’s creative process and then plan, create, and exhibit a body of work. Key goals of Learning Lab are to have youth learn problem-solving skills, experience and improve critical thinking ability, and increase self-confidence. Each Learning Lab spans approximately two months of sessions with the same artist and youth cohort. For each Learning Lab, we partner with a different local school or youth-serving organization and provide Learning Lab programming for free to their youth. These interactive and intensive workshops build upon the ideas and forms of the resident artist, and culminate in the completion of a work presented to the public in exhibitions and performances during a free opening reception at PlatteForum. Through Learning Labs, we increase our reach and the impact of arts-based learning in underserved communities.

In both ArtLab and Learning Labs, youth 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. A deep body of research shows that youth involved in arts-based learning do better in school, are more likely to graduate and go to college, and find and access meaningful employment.

Kwende "Memetic" Kefentse working with ArtLab youth in spring 2013

College Access Mentoring Program (CAMP) demystifies college, removes barriers, reinforces the importance of higher education, and guides youth in a critical direction toward high school graduation, college, and believing in themselves. Through CAMP, ArtLab youth are paired with adult mentors, and together the pair follows an 18-month curriculum (created by PlatteForum) that guides youth through the college readiness and application process. Mentors, who are trained by PlatteForum staff and college admissions counselors prior to mentoring youth, offer guidance, support, and encouragement to help develop the competence and character of their mentee. Parents, guardians, and family members are encouraged to be involved through events, such as quarterly college access workshops (i.e. “Accessing Financial Aid”), and stay in contact with mentors and PlatteForum staff. CAMP is specifically designed to meet the needs of first-time and first-generation college applicants.

Many ArtLab youth are the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend post-secondary institutions due in large part to their participation in PlatteForum’s programs. While ArtLab provides our youth with a springboard from which they can identify and reach educational and personal goals that, prior to working with PlatteForum, were unrealized, CAMP leads youth in a critical and specific direction toward high school graduation and post-secondary education. We have achieved our goal of 100% high school graduation rates (with most youth also enrolling in college) in recent years by implementing the CAMP program as part of ArtLab. ArtLab youth also greatly benefit personally from one-on-one relationships with their mentors.