About Youth Arts

Pro Arts’ Youth Arts program provides long-term, in-depth artist residencies in underserved public schools, aligning with our mission to encourage change in and through the arts to invigorate our communities. Our arts education programs in public schools contributes to a safe, healthy and vibrant Oakland.

Pro Arts artist residencies provide accessible art instruction, arts integration teacher training and exhibition opportunities for reflection, celebration and recognition of our youth. Our services respond to the scarcity of arts resources and instruction, providing continuity and connection to community arts. Youth Arts aims to stimulate and nurture creativity, artistic skills, expression, understanding of meaning and connection to others. We are committed to supporting access, inclusion and the development of creative producers and audiences.

Our Youth Arts art integration residencies consist of elementary, middle school and high school programs. Lead artists work with teachers and site coordinators to ensure that any special needs of students are addressed and that all students are supported to participate fully.


To inspire individual creative expression;

To build teamwork skills through collaboration and joint exploration of various media;

To cultivate a sense of historical and cultural context by comparing student projects to work from other historical periods and cultures;

To develop an aesthetic awareness by evaluating artwork and receiving feedback from peers, the resident artist and professional working artists;

To create supportive relationships between youth and adults through mentorship and the nurturing of artistic talent;

To facilitate connections to other disciplines, community art resources, professional artists and the ‘real world’ by gaining critical thinking, collaboration and problem-solving skills;

To support future success in personal, academic and workplace settings through the development of focus, persistence, envisioning, reflection, empathy, creative problem solving, engagement, self-assessment and revision.


Youth Arts in TKAP (TK) focuses on integrated learning in the earliest grades developing essential social-emotional and cognitive skills while impacting the students’ level of readiness as they matriculate to Kindergarten and beyond. Teaching artists lead rigorous and engaging professional development for OUSD TK teachers in arts integration with an emphasis on math and science. On-site artist residencies facilitate art instruction as a process for deepening student learning and creating collaborative learning environments. Outcomes of the program include creating and sustaining equitable and inspired learning experiences for students and teachers.

Youth Arts in Middle Schools focuses on increasing knowledge and understanding of the historical and cultural dimensions of the visual arts through engagement in the creative process. Teaching artists encourage self-directed exploration towards the completion of art projects. Concurrent with art making, students engage in discussion of personal work with peers, family, school teachers and the teaching artist, and in written reflection at the conclusion of the project. Through facilitated engagement students learn to appreciate the concept of cultural context through focusing on topics such as color, symbol and subject. At the conclusion of their projects, students’ work is exhibited at the school site. Enrollment is open to all students. Additionally school administrators refer students with behavior and discipline issues. Our residency serves as a key strategy for schools to engage difficult to reach students. Outcomes of the program include recognition of diversity within the visual arts; reflection on the student’s own experience of culture; appreciation of the expression of culture in creative choices; understanding of visual problem-solving; skill development with various materials and techniques; increased confidence in creative choices, problem-solving and ownership of final artwork.

Youth Arts in Oakland High Schools integrates arts education, exhibition opportunities, professional arts training and youth development. This artistic development program introduces professional practices to high school students who learn hands-on art making skills, peer review techniques, series development and exhibition preparation. Each participant receives art supplies to support drawing, painting, sculpture, or screen-printing; and participates in intensive classes that focus on regular journaling, peer circles, portfolio development and art exercises. Students who demonstrate a commitment to the arts and apply for the program are accepted into the High School Intensive. Outcomes of the program include development of skills in the exploration of media, communications, the artist/curator relationship, business management, copyright and exhibition production (curating, layout, installation, and publicity). The understanding of these artistic practices supports increased confidence in creative choices, self-discovery of students’ unique creative vision and skills to talk with peers about art and art making.


Engage annually over 1000 elementary, middle and high school students in visual art theory, practice and process;

Make ART visible: annually, 5,000 artworks are produced on-site as a result of our artist residencies and by participating youth, attending elementary, middle and high school in Oakland, demonstrating students’ development of a critical and creative voice;

Award 10 annual scholarships for high school juniors to attend Pro Arts’ High School Intensive in partnership with the Academy of Arts University San Francisco Pre-College Summer Art Intensive Program.


Elementary artist residencies are coordinated between classroom teachers and teaching artists on a timeline established by the classroom teacher. Pro Arts’ Youth Arts program runs typically from October through May each year. Residencies consist of 12 sessions over 12 weeks for each class. TK residencies also run from October through May consisting of 18 sessions over 18 weeks for each class. Middle School residencies consist of in-school and after-school instruction throughout the academic year. High School residencies kick-off outreach, recruitment and class presentations in November. High school training intensive residencies run twelve weeks, January through May.

Exhibitions for all school residencies are presented throughout the school year at school sites. All high school students are presented in Youth Fellows exhibition each year in Spring at Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland.


Evaluation is integral to our Youth Arts program design. Ongoing evaluation and feedback takes place for Youth Arts residencies at the elementary and middle school level of education. The Youth Arts coordinator conducts monthly check-ins with resident artists, classroom teachers, and school administrators on student progress and the indent programmatic outcomes. Survey tools are implemented to track data and reach individual performance goals. To evaluate our high school program, Pro Arts has implemented a youth participant survey that collects feedback from art teachers in each of our partnering high school. We also track attendance, exhibitions, new artwork created, and dialogue with principals. High school evaluation measures include skill development – technical, artistic, academic – critical thinking, problem solving, self-motivation, and program participation. Methods include: student written reflections, portfolio reviews, ongoing feedback, program evaluation, student self-assessment, interviews, student letters, and teacher and administrator evaluations and feedback. All feedback is reviewed on monthly basis and informs the next term of programming and artist residencies’ goals and objectives.