universities awarded $1.6 million grant from the wallace foundation to study long-term impact of participating in informal arts programs

Sam Mejias, Co-Principal Investigator and Associate Professor at Parsons

New York, November 18, 2021 – Parsons School of Design, The University of California at Irvine, Deakin University (Australia), and University of Kentucky have been awarded a $1.6 million grant from The Wallace Foundation (New York) to undertake a unique study tracing the long-term effects of participating in out-of-school time (OST) arts programs. 

Tracing the Enduring Effects of Community Arts Programs (TEECAP) aims to explore how participating in community arts programs influences the career and life trajectories of people who come from communities where such programs are based. Working in collaborative partnership with community arts programs across the US, Australia, and United Kingdom, the project will examine the potential shaping force of OST programs on identity formation and the influences on life activities resulting from participation. The study intends to shed light on the capacity of creative communities of practice and OST programs, in particular, to impact the life experiences of marginalized youth.

Numerous studies have shown how OST and other non-formal and informal education programs and initiatives can effectively deliver, recruit and engage young people in arts education, but it is rare to find long-term analyses of interventions and participation. Few studies have attempted to focus on the meaning, value, and influence of educational experiences in general and even fewer qualitatively examine the long-term effects of participation in OST programs—including how participants in arts programs view the way these programs have affected their lives. 

The study will center the narratives and lived experiences of adults who have participated in OST arts programs in their youth, and work with them to design new practical models for expanding the long-term impact of OST programs. Sam Mejias, Co-Principal Investigator and Associate Professor of Social Justice and Community Engagement at Parsons, explains: “It’s almost cliché to say that OST programs such as art classes or afterschool enrichment can be life changing for some; our study offers an opportunity to understand how they might become life changing for everyone. Our goal is to learn how we can better design OST programs for enabling and inspiring equitable futures.”

UC Irvine Principal Investigator Vera Michalchik elaborates, “We tend to think we have a handle on positive life outcomes—such as staying in school, getting a good job, and so on—but just like there’s more to life than these resumé-type things, there’s more to important life outcomes and what we ‘measure.’ People’s sense of themselves, their bodies, their relationship to the world, and many other subtle, often inexpressible, and typically undiscussed things really matter to people’s quality of life and well-being. We want to learn better how to promote and advocate for experiences for youth that are uplifting and life-affirming in the long term, both for individuals and communities.”

The project will take place across three years and consist of both a data collection phase and a participatory-design research phase that includes past OST participants who take part in the study. Program leaders, policy makers, researchers and funders will be able to use the study’s findings in the support, design, implementation, improvement, and extension of programs and to further test and refine strategies for long-term impacts of considerable social import.

The project team consists of scholars with considerable research experience working with young people, in OST settings, and in community arts programs. The team includes Principal Investigator Vera Michalchik (UC Irvine), Co-Principal Investigator Sam Mejias (Parsons School of Design), Julian Sefton-Green (Deakin University), and Daniela Kruel DiGiacomo (University of Kentucky).

The Wallace Foundation’s mission is to foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people, and in the arts for everyone. Wallace works nationally, with a focus on the arts, K-12 education leadership and youth development. In all of its work, Wallace seeks to benefit both its direct grantees as well as the fields in which it works by developing and broadly sharing relevant, useful knowledge that can improve practice and policy. For more information, please visit the foundation’s Knowledge Center at wallacefoundation.org.

Parsons School of Design at The New School is one of the leading institutions for art and design education in the world. Based in New York but active around the world, the school offers undergraduate and graduate programs in the full spectrum of art and design disciplines, as well as online courses, degree and certificate programs. Critical thinking and collaboration are at the heart of a Parsons education. Parsons graduates are leaders in their respective fields, with a shared commitment to creatively and critically addressing the complexities of life in the 21st century.


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Will Wilbur,
The New School
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