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Supporting our youth the ‘YAYA’ way

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Our city is full of talent...we’re practically bursting at the seams with the amount of talent that comes out of New Orleans. From chefs and musicians to athletes and artists, there is never a shortage of talented people, young and old, black and white, female and male.
Now, while we recognize and agree that New Orleans has more talent in one block of the French Quarter than there is in the whole state of Texas (kidding…kinda), sometimes we have a little trouble harnessing that talent, showing our youth what kinds of opportunities exist rather than traveling the same (sometimes dangerous) road as their peers.
Well, there’s an organization in the business of harnessing and developing the talent of our young artistic New Orleanians, Young Aspirations | Young Artists also known YAYA. Founded in 1988 by Jana Napoli, “YAYA is an arts community and teaching design studio dedicated to the artistic, professional, and personal development of creative young people in New Orleans.”
YAYA Inc. New Orleans |
An after-school arts and professional enrichment program, YAYA takes our youth through all the steps. Students learn various art mediums, develop their resumes and portfolios, and experience what it feels like to be a working artist through community projects and special commissions. All with the purpose of making sure the future leaders of city have the opportunity to lead positive and productive lives. “The impact of YAYA extends far beyond the art world, into the business community, families, neighborhoods, and the health and safety of New Orleans as a whole.”
Timeka Junius, YAYA’s Director of Programs and former YAYA artist, said, “When I first started at YAYA in 1993, I was a little nervous, but the program was really amazing. One of the great things about YAYA that continues to this day is the very family-oriented atmosphere and mentorship program. It gave me a place where I was able to express myself creatively.”
Like Timeka, tons of young New Orleanians have made their way through the doors of YAYA. “Jana Napoli was an artist and she recognized the need for our young people to have an outlet to express themselves in positive ways rather than negative ones,” explained Timeka. “Jana’s art studio was located in the CBD of New Orleans not far from Rabouin High School. Seeing these teenagers from Rabouin with so much energy, but without a focus for this energy, Jana invited them to work on an art project involving architecture with her around the CBD. From there, the program just began to flourish with art shows, commissions, and traveling engagements. People from all across the country and the New Orleans community wanted to have YAYA artwork, YAYA murals, the YAYA chairs.”
YAYA Inc. New Orleans |
She added, “We’ve been servicing youth for 22 years and providing them with a place to express themselves and most importantly become an entrepreneur in their field. As a young artist in my time, that was remarkable for us because when you spoke about visual art, your parents were happy, but they kind of cringed because they weren’t sure how far art could go. YAYA has shown how limitless the opportunities can be. It helps to pull out talents that sometimes you’re not even aware that you have.”
YAYA currently has four different programs where students move through the ranks of Aspirant, Apprentice, Guild, and Senior Guild. “The first program, the YAYA Studio, allows students to design things such as murals and chairs. Then, there’s the Urban Heroes where we go out in a teaching capacity to schools or even the French Market for workshops. In Art Speaks, we give our artists a voice through visual art, and Paint the World explores the many travel options available for our young artists.” Most recently, YAYA opened a creative glass studio, for both established glass artists and YAYA students who wish to dabble in a different medium.
Not only do YAYA students develop their craft, but they are also able to display their works within the community. “YAYA artists contribute to many public art projects located around the city of New Orleans. In the public eye, these projects showcase the creativity and innovation of the YAYAs by allowing passers by, both New Orleans residents and visitors, to experience their art.”
YAYA Inc. New Orleans |
For any young artist with big aspirations, YAYA is for you. The focus, drive, determination, and motivation needed to be a successful artist in this world is not lost on YAYA. YAYA aims to develop and nurture the passion of our youth in hopes that they use it for the good and well-being of our city and themselves.
So, what are you waiting on? Let’s YAYA!
For more information about YAYA, please visit the website.

Last modified on Wednesday, 18 July 2012

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