"AIR is a wonderful program. It provides opportunities for her to gain experience that we could not afford to provide for her."
-parent of an AIR teen
To empower teenage girls through mentoring and the arts.
Arts In Reach provides mentoring through the arts to teenage girls in the Greater Seacoast of New Hampshire. AIR empowers teenage girls through innovative teaching and mentoring, utilizing accessible arts programming as the platform for success. AIR develops girls’ creative freedom and power of voice in a positive setting where teenage girls thrive.
We envision a community in which all young women are respected, supported, and enriched throughout their teenage years. We provide a landscape for them to pursue and express their own authentic identities.
The Platforms We Support:
- GIRLS: The teenage years are formative, life-changing, and confusing. Girls are transitioning from childhood to womanhood. It’s a time where friends matter and expressing yourself is paramount.
- EMPOWERMENT: Our goal is to empower girls to be confident in themselves and their abilities; to feel like they are worthy, special, and important every day; to build resiliency to face life’s challenges; and to make healthy and positive life choices. We do this through group mentoring with a focus on group dynamics as girls learn to relate to one another, communicate effectively, and treat one another with respect. Small ratios of instructors to participants also allow us to give each girl individualized attention.
- ART: Art inspires! Art is incredible for everyone and especially for teenagers, who are in a period of their lives in which they need to express who they are. Art provides a safe outlet for teens to take risks, speak up, and be recognized for their unique talents. We provide meaningful experiences led by professional artists.
- COMMUNITY: AIR’s fourth platform is our greater community, including the girls, their families, our partners, and our supporters. Our goal is to build a community that is more supportive of all young women and one that sustains AIR in its important mission.
- Help girls develop positive self-images, enabling them to feel confident about who they are and the life choices they make
- Provide girls with a nurturing and safe environment where they can thrive
- Present quality educational programming after-school and during unsupervised school vacations
- Integrate youth into community
- Inspire young women to excel by connecting them with strong and healthy role models
- Provide access to the arts for girls who otherwise would not have the opportunity
- Develop the ability to be reflective and to set life goals
- Increase their literacy and critical thinking skills
- Develop strong resistance skills to avoid risky behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse, as well as teen pregnancy
- Build strong relationships and conflict resolution skills
- Gain knowledge and understanding of the arts and cultural expression
- Identify local art resources and be inspired by local artists
- Volunteer in service to community to demonstrate the potential of youth
Arts In Reach was established in 1997 by UNH art history graduates Kristin Forselius and Amanda Tappan as a summer day camp that focused on visual arts and art history. Both Kristin and Amanda wanted to serve girls from low to moderate income families because they felt strongly that the arts should be accessible to all. They began developing Arts In Reach three months before the summer vacation and the hit the pavement hard to fundraise. Liberty Mutual signed on as the first corporate sponsor and remains today as AIR’s longest continuing corporate sponsor. With their support and that of friends and family, during that first summer Amanda and Kristin raised almost $2,000, enough to buy art supplies, pay for weekly field trips, and rent a space.
By July 1, there were nine girls, ages 12-14, on the roster and six weeks of programming planned, including outdoor painting on the Isles of Shoals, a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and several workshops led by volunteer artists. The program was free to participants, as is continued today. That first summer camp immediately became popular and quickly sparked the interest of local schools and other families in need. The initial program not only raised participants’ cultural awareness, but to everyone’s surprise, it also made the girls feel stronger about their identity and what they could accomplish. Their family and peer relationships improved, and they had a renewed interest in school. These unexpected results became the basis for AIR’s mentoring approach, using the arts as the platform for success.
Arts In Reach today offers 8 annual programs in dance, theater, songwriting, singing, visual arts and creative writing. AIR balances positive youth development and artistic goals, values the process of creating art over the product, and commits to making programs accessible to lower income youth by charging no fees and assisting in transportation.
Meeting after-school and during school vacations, each program is led by professional artists with extensive educational experience and provides young women with hands-on activities to enhance their artistic abilities. The structured curriculum provides space for participant individuality and creativity while providing a framework for group mentoring that helps girls build confidence and develop constructive behaviors, resiliency, and values, including self-esteem, teamwork, leadership, and creative expression.