YAYA (Young Aspirations Young Artists, Inc.) was founded in 1988 as a creative and entrepreneurial partnership between New Orleans artist Jana Napoli and art students from Rabouin High School. The center is home to an expansive creative community where young people have the freedom, opportunities, and resources to discover their artistic voices and passions. It offers free after-school programs for youth, ages 5-25, at the YAYA Arts Center in Central City and has partnered with more than 30 local schools to build custom curriculums that include in-school workshops and field trips to its center. The program offers training in painting, sculpture, photography, video, ceramics, a range of glassmaking techniques in their public access glass studio, and many other media.
YAYA’s holistic approach uses the arts as a way to give young people tangible skills, like financial literacy and project management, as well as soft skills, including leadership, communication, collaboration, and creative thinking. The after-school enrichment program nurtures the creative talents of local students in ways that also strengthen their academic success, life skills, and professional preparedness. Through a blending of visual arts training with leadership and entrepreneurial skills in a mentorship-based atmosphere, Yaya Arts Center exposes young people to a range of creative professions. Its goal is for each young person to leave YAYA prepared for their adult lives, whether that includes college, pursuing a career in the arts, or entering the workforce.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, YAYA deepened its commitment to young artists, adding access to mental health resources, art therapists, and an increased amount of individualized attention. This increase in access was focused on the core youth who are served throughout the year in our Community Arts (5-12-year-olds), Teen Guild (13-25-year-olds), and Urban Heroes (ongoing arts integration in local classrooms) programs.
As of 2022, YAYA is fully open again as a public facility. YAYA’s Teen Guild members will travel to learn from artists in other cities in the summer of 2022, a core element of a program that has been on hiatus since 2019.