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Creativity with a Cause

For the second year in a row, frog has partnered with Art Start to engage New York’s creative community to benefit homeless youth.

As part of New York City’s annual celebration of design NYCxDESIGN, frog is hosting DECKxDESIGN, a charity auction featuring custom skateboards created by New York creatives. One deck on display will be designed by Art Start students. All funds will benefit Art Start and their mission to bring the power of creativity to NYC’s homeless and at-risk youth through their award-winning programming.

In anticipation of our event on May 23rd, we spoke with Hannah Immerman, Co-Executive Director of Art Start about the importance of creativity in building lasting communities.

What is Art Start’s main objective?

Our main goal is to connect with youth in order to foster personal development. We want to help build confidence through creating art. In our programs, we are working with transient populations so our goal is to truly connect with the youth, whether it’s for one workshop, a week or or an entire year. We try to foster a level of community and consistency by bringing in the same volunteers and instructors so that the youth have a consistent connection with adults and mentors. This frequency is really important in building relationships and creating community.

At frog, we are practitioners of human-centered design, can you describe Art Start’s “student-centered” approach?

For us, “student-centered” means that our curriculum is based on the existing interests of the youth. They are often coming to our workshops from after-school programs so at 5 to 7pm we’re not interested in teaching art history, or formal art education. Rather, we create activities and projects that allow students to explore different art forms, artists, movements or techniques within the context of their own interests. It’s a flexible curriculum that they can modify on their own. It’s also adaptive because most workshops end up being mixed age groups, so we need to have activities that are interesting to a twelve year old, but not too difficult for a five year old. The workshops range from art, music and dance to gardening and food. They are structured enough to manage and engage the youth, but adaptive enough to meet a large span of needs.

How does your programming differ from other youth programs?

Art Start brings our creative workshops directly to the youth in the shelters. By conducting our workshops on-site, we strive to make our programs as accessible to the youth as possible. Rather than one off workshops or short engagements, we have paid teaching artists and a team of returning volunteers to ensure that we always have a ratio of 1 adult to every 2 kids. This structure allows us to be consistent and collaborative, rather than instructive and infrequent. We are not imparting knowledge or art education, we are participating with the youth in the creative process over a longer period of time. It’s always more about that process, and not the finished result.  

Art Start also partners with non-profit shelter providers, who have dedicated youth and recreation staff and various services for the families.  We are always working to contribute to this support system and collaborate with the shelter staff to ensure that our programming is benefitting and engaging the youth as much as possible.

What is the importance of creativity for at-risk youth?

Homeless youth are resilient–you can see that just by sitting down next to them in our workshops. We strive to boost that resilience through creativity. You guys at frog know this, but creativity boosts your self esteem, critical thinking, social skills. It helps in school and beyond. It provides an outlet for youth to process the difficult situations they face. Some of the kids we work with are in shelters for over a year, which means there’s a lot they’re confronted with that they can’t control–they’re moved around from their schools and displaced from their communities. Creativity helps to rebuild that community. By showing up in these shelters for a period of time, we are saying ‘we’re here for you.’ We’re creating permanence in a transient place–creative communities that can help combat all this craziness world.

What is the one thing you’d like people to know about the kids you serve?

I want people to know Art Start youth are like any other youth. They are strong, creative, resilient–they are leaders. They are teaching us as much as we’re teaching them. They are taking a time of uncertainty and turning it into a time of transformation. We’ve seen how transformative the creative process is for the youth. And we keep looking to them for inspiration because they continue to teach us everyday.



frog is a global design and strategy firm. We transform businesses at scale by creating systems of brand, product and service that deliver a distinctly better experience. We strive to touch hearts and move markets. Our passion is to transform ideas into realities. We partner with clients to anticipate the future, evolve organizations and advance the human experience.

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