How to Make the Most of This Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity
When you’re a creative student in high school, having your talent validated is the most important experience you can possibly have. For those countless young artists who find themselves wondering whether they can really make a career out of their artistry, the opportunity to be nurtured, mentored and seen for their skill might be the difference between becoming a lifelong artist and taking another route. That’s what makes National YoungArts Week transformational, not just for the young artists who have been lucky enough to score a spot for this pivotal experience, but for the teaching artists and mentors who have participated in National YoungArts Week over the years.
“Every year I look forward to this week so much,” says Rosie Herrera, a choreographer and dancer who has participated in National YoungArts Week as a teaching artist for the last 10 years, “because I’m always surprised at the artistry of some of the young students. Just thinking of myself at that age and seeing them have such a developed sense of their artistry is really inspirational to me.”
Welcoming young artists across 10 disciplines, National YoungArts Week is an opportunity for those who participate to immerse themselves not only in their own craft, but that of their peers and teachers. The co-mingling of these disciplines in one breathless week allows artists to push themselves out of their comfort zones and into growth, which is exactly what designer and architect Germane Barnes suggests they do.
“I always tell the students to be comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Barnes says. “When you’re at National YoungArts week, you’re not only with designers: You’re with people who do musical theater, composition, visual art. So often we want to silo ourselves, but if you accept this as the opportunity to grow and learn from other disciplines, it only makes your ability to design that much better.”
Preparing for National YoungArts Week is something that Barnes does rigorously. He personally approaches his agenda according to the winners’ portfolios and applications, both researching their work in advance and making tweaks as he gets to know them on a personal level. Barnes says artists can prepare by knowing that “whatever [your] expertise is, I will not allow you to use that.” Jean Shin (1990 Visual Arts & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts) likes to remind artists that vulnerability is key: “You have to be willing to take risks and be vulnerable. This builds confidence and inner strength that will carry you far.”
As an artist who made it to National YoungArts Week, you might be used to over-preparing, unrelenting perfectionism and a nagging sense of self-doubt when it comes to your work. But Herrera says that throwing all of those preconceptions out the window will be the key to making the most of the experience.
“You might be used to being the best in your studio at home, and that might change while you’re here. You need to see that as an opportunity to grow because we evolve out of whatever is around us,” she says. “Really exorcise yourself of the idea that the panel or your teacher is looking for a specific ideal, and try to bring yourself and be open with who you are. Because the more that your teachers, your mentors and your colleagues get to know you and actually get to see who you really are, the easier it’s going to be to connect with your sense of artistry.”
Aside from remaining open, which is something that Barnes, Herrera and Shin stress above all else, students should be prepared to absorb as much as possible. From Herrera’s advice to bring a notebook along to scribble down suggestions that you can refer to later and again and again, to taking the opportunity to create a national network and community with artists who could become collaborators, as Barnes suggests, those who come to National YoungArts Week ready to take advantage are the ones who will be the most rewarded.
“Come with an open mind and a spirit of generosity to share and connect with this amazing arts community that has come together,” says Shin. “The close relationships with the people you meet will mutually support your creative growth in ways that will surprise you. Enjoy the process.”
And if you find yourself holding back, unsure of whether you really can lean all the way into what you know you can do, remember that just being at National YoungArts Week is an honor few get to enjoy.
“Trust that everybody there has your best interests in mind because that is really true,” says Herrera. “You made it here. You have nothing to prove.”
From January 8-15, 2023, audiences are invited to meet the next generation of artists in special, one-night performances. Performances and writers’ readings will be livestreamed at youngarts.org/yaw.
Performances at New World Center
500 17th St., Miami Beach
Monday, January 9
8 PM | Voice Performance
Tuesday, January 10
8 PM | Jazz & Theater Performance
Wednesday, January 11
8 PM | Dance Performance & Film Screenings
Thursday, January 12
8:30 PM | Classical Music Concert
On the YoungArts Campus
2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Friday, January 13
7 PM | Writers’ Readings
Friday, January 13
8:30 PM | Design Arts, Photography & Visual Arts Exhibition Opening
Curated by Adeze Wilford
On view through March 31
Tickets for performances and writers’ readings
$15 | Students $5 | Past award winners free
Exhibition is free and open to the public.
About the Author:
Nicole Martinez is a cultural producer, writer and editor based in Miami. She is the associate director at Fountainhead Arts, an artist residency dedicated to elevating and supporting artist voices. Her writing has appeared in Cultured, Hyperallergic, Art Newspaper, Artsy, and others.
Follow her on Instagram: @niki_frsh