Urging private and city support for YTN
March 24, 2009 · Updated 3:36 PM
I recently moved to Mercer Island from Bethlehem, Pa., where I was the artistic director of Pennsylvania Youth Theatre, a successful 24-year-old performing arts conservatory and professional theater for family audiences. Prior to moving here, I attended several performances by Youth Theatre Northwest while visiting my daughter, who lives on the Island. I was always impressed with the vitality of the young performers and the great opportunities offered by YTN for the education, entertainment and enrichment of Mercer Island youth.
I was distressed, however, to receive a recent emergency appeal indicating that the company may have to scale back its programming or cease operation altogether as a result of the current economy. I would like to stress that should this happen, the children and families of this community would suffer a serious loss. YTN is an invaluable arts and education resource. The organization is unique in the high level of earned versus contributed income. Similar youth theaters across the country, as profiled in the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People’s report, depend upon a considerably higher ratio of private, local and state funding to survive than does your local youth theater. YTN staff and board members are to be lauded for managing to be comparatively self-sufficient in an extremely challenging economic environment for nonprofit organizations.
The benefits of the arts in the personal development of children have been well-documented. Beyond their intrinsic contributions to the quality of life, recent studies indicate a strong connection between arts education and improved academic achievement. Also, research suggests that participation in the arts has a positive effect on young people’s interpersonal skills, confidence, motivation to succeed and preparation to enter the work force. In other words, the arts, of which theater is a synthesis, prepare children not just for a livelihood, but also for life.
Given these critical benefits for the youth of the community and the accessibility and potential of Youth Theatre Northwest, I urge private, corporate and city financial support, not only during this organization’s present crisis, but long-term in order to maintain this valuable Mercer Island arts resource.