In summer 2013, a team of educators, which included Nobles faculty members Dawud Brown and David Roane, founded the Print Academy, an arts mentorship program for Boston-area youth. The summer session ran every Tuesday afternoon and was based out of Eliot Congregational Church in Roxbury, Mass. Plans are currently in place for a monthly component to run throughout the academic year and to provide students with internship opportunities. David Roane reflects on the Print Academy below.
When we first considered starting an arts mentorship program for youth, it was a way to collaborate with some people on work we thought was really important. Budget constraints dictate the elimination of art programs in many of our most underfunded schools. We felt a deep concern about issues affecting public education. The creation of the Print Academy is an expression born from our need to act.
The Paradox of Progress: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse by Gregg Easterbrook asks readers to consider how modern levels of abundance and prosperity although may liberate us materially, can leave us unsatisfied emotionally and spiritually. Or, as Viktor Frankl once famously lamented in his philosophical treatise, Man’s Search for Meaning, “We have enough to live, but nothing to live for; we have means, but no meaning.”
By promoting art as a self-empowering tool for the creation of personal meaning, the Print Academy aims to combat such feelings of alienation among our youth. The easiest way for young people to make their place in the world is by making part of the world. Only through contribution do people gain their foothold, a true sense that, somehow, they belong.
Sadly, young people who find themselves squeezed out of the arts are often the ones who need it the most. Let’s face it, there are not a lot of safe environments where young people can express themselves freely. While there might be many different ways of being “smart,” art is apt to provide a voice for those who, otherwise, would remain silent.
Ironically enough, teaching at Nobles has only sharpened my awareness of the educational disparities current in society. And surprisingly, teaching at Print Academy has had reciprocal effects on my role at Nobles. It has clarified my need to be as intentional as possible in the classroom. While structure and premeditation are important, such concepts are only valuable if they promote the intellectual play, expression and freedom necessary for growing young minds. Learning institutions should value intentionality as a byproduct for reflection, contemplation and meditation—all hallmarks of the trade.
By affirming my identity as an educator, the experience of teaching this past summer in a high-need area of our city has jump-started my overall sense of purpose. Being an educator transcends academics and extends into realms of life that’s impossible to confine within the walls of a classroom. It even surpasses the reality of expediency—becoming something more than just a job and something greater than just a service. It actually achieves the poetic force of something very simple—a true calling.