Sheelagh Allston | Young Audiences and Arts for Learning

Sheelagh Allston, Partner at RMG

Role within Organization: Board Member
Number of Years/Months Involved: 5 Years

Why do you volunteer your time specifically with this organization?

Growing up, the arts played an instrumental part in my upbringing (no pun intended).  Whether I was spending my Saturdays at music school or participating in a playwriting workshop, I always enjoyed the arts.  These experiences created new skills and opportunities, such as developing discipline, building confidence and cultural learning opportunities, for me that I wouldn’t necessarily have had otherwise.  I first learned of Young Audiences (YA) through an assembly performance at my daughter’s school.  I wanted to become involved in YA because those young experiences gave me a passion for the arts.  Also, I believe that the arts can play an important role in supporting the education in children.  Finally, I believe strongly in YA’s vision which is “One day, every student in Maryland will have the opportunity to imagine, create, and realize their full potential through the arts.”

Does this organization affect Baltimore as a whole?

It definitely does.  YA operates Summer Arts & Learning Academies at 4 schools in Baltimore City. Students who attend are able to explore math and literacy through arts integration.  The students who attended most of the program in the summer of 2016 were able to come back to school ahead in their math and reading programs (YA is still waiting for data on the summer of 2017).  YA is also the Maryland affiliate of the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts, which has provided programming in Baltimore.  As a result, YA is helping to prepare some of our youngest children to be ready for kindergarten.  YA also trains artists to go into the schools and work with teachers through residencies to supplement the curriculum that teachers are working on (one really interesting example of that is teaching math concepts through beatboxing).

What is your favorite memory of working with this organization?

I really enjoyed seeing the youngest kids in one of the schools developing literacy through a YA program, and getting to see these really young minds truly benefit from YA’s approach to learning.  I also enjoyed spending the morning at one of the Summer Arts & Learning Academies this past summer.  I was able to actually see students mastering multiplication through beatboxing and dance lessons and learning about the environment through visual arts.

If you could do one thing to change the organization for the better, what would it be?

YA needs to be known by everyone.  This is a phenomenal organization which is helping children in Baltimore and throughout the State of Maryland, reach their full potential by giving them learning opportunities through the arts.