Arts intervention is a strategy that has over 100 years of history in the United States. It has been reported to have a positive impact and to help keep youth out of trouble. It is a cognitive–emotional intervention. Students are asked to explore and understand their thinking and the relationship to their emotional state. They are asked to express themselves. They do this in the context of an environment that is supportive of risk taking.
A simplified version of the program model for the arts programming is shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Simplified Model for Arts Programming
However, research has been limited on its use and the implications of arts programming. Prodigy is undergoing a continuous evaluation, and the McGill study has shown positive results as has the research in education.
There are some next steps to take:
- A full program evaluation of an arts program. This is under way at Prodigy and will provide more insight into the programmatic aspects. This has implications for all types of programming, not just arts. It is part of the effort to implement evidence-based programming.
- A theoretical examination and explication of the program components in an arts program that relate to the desired outcomes. This will advance the science of intervention program and continue the research into PYD models.
- A cost analysis. Early work indicates that arts programming can deliver effective diversion programs at a low cost per youth. This has important policy implications in terms of allocation of resources.
Over the next 5 years, the science on arts intervention programming should become reasonably robust, with more conclusive statements. Understanding this programming can lead to relatively low-cost programming that youth enjoy and that can be as effective as costlier options. The promise is that youth can improve their social skills, increase their ability to self-regulate, and learn how to express emotions in a constructive manner. They may also experience positive cognitive development benefits leading to improved school performance. If this type of programming holds up to scrutiny, it argues for a change in how we approach youth intervention from both a policy and programmatic standpoint.
Jerry Miller and William Rowe
University of South Florida
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- YouthARTS Development Project: https://www.ncjrs.gov/html/ojjdp/2001_5_2/contents.html
- YouthARTS Toolkit: http://youtharts.artsusa.org/