Engaging disconnected youth in the Arts

November 16, 2016

Creative Kids, with support from the Paso del Norte Health Foundation, is at it again. Throughout 2016, the award-winning non-profit has been engaging “disconnected” youth in Fabens, Texas with Project ABLE, an after-school program focused on arts-based projects such as painting on canvas, silk screening, graphic design, printmaking and ceramics.

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the artwork that has come out of Project ABLE, which is funded through the Health Foundation’s IGNITE Initiative? Over the summer of 2016, Project ABLE staged an intensive six-week arts program that yielded a thoughtful and striking piece of art, which is currently on display at the El Paso Holocaust Museum.

Youth participating in the summer camp created a silk screen in which butterflies hanging from a ceiling represent children who died during the Holocaust. It’s this type of reflection and then public display and recognition of the art that has a tremendous impact on kids, says Creative Kids Executive Director Andrea Gates-Ingle. Project ABLE is about boosting the self-esteem of disconnected youth in Fabens, “showing that these kids are more than low income kids who live in rural Fabens, TX,” Gates says. Taking it a step further, it’s also about using the kids’ art to beautify public spaces, and as kids see their artwork on display, they and their families have a sense of pride and accomplishment.

“It’s amazing to see what happens with the families because they feel so proud of them,” Gates says. “Art is a way to build that family support.” The next step for Creative Kids is to develop a sustainability model for the program. They are working on this by building a tool kit so that Poject ABLE can be replicated both around and outside the border region.

This will be done by training artists and youth development program staff on the use of the tool kit and how to take the Project ABLE curriculum from A to Z. The tool kit will include a booklet and a website that has videos and tutorials to help others implement a similar experience for disadvantage youth. There also will be best practices on to secure funding for arts materials and how to pay for instruction costs, and then how to leverage public spaces as Project ABLE has done to showcase the artwork created by youth.

“We want to make it so that even people who don’t have the art background, can implement the curriculum,” says Gates.

To take the program nationally is the big dream. With Creative Kids and the Paso del Norte Health Foundation working together, that idea doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

For more information on Creative Kids or the Project ABLE program, contact 915-533-9575 or visit

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