Giving Youth the Power to Succeed

Marwen. Reviewed by Beth Feldman Brandt, Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation.

2004, 42 pages. Marwen, 833 North Orleans St., Chicago, IL, 60610, 312-944-2418, www.marwen.org

Anyone who works (or lives) in the circle of adolescents can appreciate the complexity of developing effective arts programs for teens. Fuel documents the essential characteristics of one such program at Marwen, a Chicago cultural organization that provides high-quality visual arts instruction, college planning, and career development to young people (grades six to twelve) free of charge during out of school time.

Funded through the Wallace Foundation's Leadership and Excellence in Arts Program (LEAP), the goal of this publication is to codify Marwen's mission, method, curriculum, and environment, drawing lessons for those seeking to provide substantial arts experiences for teens. Philip Yenawine, a nationally-known art and museum educator and co-director of VUE (Visual Understanding in Education), spent a year and a half interacting with Marwen's full community to draw out why Marwen programs work. His perceptive observations represent an essential primer for those developing or supporting teen arts programs.

Marwen's programs represent a balancing act that responds to the many needs of adolescents for structure and flexibility, guidance and independence, high expectations and unwavering support. A rigorous curriculum taught by accomplished artists-mentors in a professional studio/gallery setting combine to create a productive environment for learning. In this environment, teens can find identity and community, recognize their strengths, and reflect on their challenges.

Yenawine's practical observations are augmented by an investigation of the developmental benefits that the arts, and specifically the Marwen method, provide to teens. This section, authored by Andrea Kayne Kaufman, assistant professor of educational leadership of DePaul University School of Education, brings together current psychological research to show that arts programs like these enhance learning in ways that transcend the considerable arts skills that are mastered. Bracketed with more detailed background information about Marwen, this publication provides insight into what makes teen programs work and why the arts are the right fit for this tumultuous stage of life.