Casita Maria Today
Casita Maria’s mission is to empower youth and their families by creating a culture of learning through high quality social, cultural, and educational opportunities.
And as we develop and strengthen our programs to meet this mission, we have taken the themes of explore, achieve and create as our guiding principles. From first grade to college, kids grow up with us.
CREATE: empowering participants to become creative problem-solvers by teaching project-based learning and entrepreneurial skills through the arts.
ArtWorks Summer Internships
ArtWorks provides a platform for youth development and self-sufficiency through paid employment in the arts. Each summer we bring together a group of high school and middle school students to work on real world, commissioned visual arts and design projects. Creating materials that have ranged from holiday cards for a financial services company to a tee shirt and logo design for a Columbian charity to a special exhibition on the history of Casita Maria, the students gain direct, paid experience, of the creative industries. By the end of the program, the students will understand the commissioning process, developed a range of traditional, digital and photographic print media skills, have leadership and team building skill, and enjoyed focused career development training.
Every day of the school year, Casita Maria’s teaching artists bring high quality art education to some of the most disadvantaged students in the public school system. As in all of our programs, our teaching artists use hands-on participatory learning by students rather than didactic teacher directed instruction. The students and teaching artists work together to develop projects that emphasize students’ emerging roles and responsibilities as community members, family members, and workers.
Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are a remarkable and visionary program, and as the Awards’ New York Regional Affiliate Casita Maria will work with thousands of schools throughout the city to encourage their students to develop their art and writing skills. During the year we will help young artists and writers to develop their creative skills, and then submit their work into the awards program. Last year, there were almost 7,000 submissions from New York schools and over 900 regional awards were given. After the Regional Awards, many of the students include their work in the national program where they are considered for a range of scholarships and other opportunities.
High School Portfolio Development Workshop
A strong portfolio is essential for any student considering an application to Art College. Our program brings together groups of high school sophomores and juniors to participate in an intensive three weeklong portfolio development workshop lead by Casita Maria teaching artists. During the program the students receive feed back on their work from the teaching artists and visiting critics, review each others’ work, develop new work, learn a range of new artistic techniques, explore ways to effectively present their portfolios, and participate in college admission preparation session. By the end of the program they will have bolstered their portfolio considerably and be well prepared for the art college application process
ACHIEVE: serving economically disadvantaged and underachieving students and their families with the services and tools they need to succeed academically, culturally and professionally.
After School/Out of School Time Programs
Casita Maria’s out of school time programs are as old as the organization itself. For almost 75 years we have offered youth a wide range of activities including English language training, homework help, tutoring, arts education and career exploration during after school hours, including summers. Today our program serves a total 250 at risk or economically disadvantaged students from the South Bronx and East Harlem with arts focused education. Over the years, the program has had a consistent record of achievement. Participating students frequently have improved school attendance records, their homework and academic skill begin to improve, as does their general disposition toward school.
Ninth Grade Success Initiative
Students entering 9th grade face a remarkable range of challenges. If they meet these challenges they are well set for a successful and productive future, so Casita Maria has created a number of in-school and after-school programs to support and guide at-risk youth during this difficult time. Our programs begin by orienting the students for high school life, and preparing them for the new social, cultural and academic challenges they will face. The second part of the program focuses on leadership development training which, through a range of hands-on and team-building activities, allows the students to understand leadership and adopt leadership positions in a range of different situations. The final part of the program concentrates on service learning and the role of the student in the community, and encourages their active participation in community life.
Casita High School Bound
Middle school is a time of growth and risk for students that is often over looked in formal educational structures. Our program is available to cohorts of students 7th grade through to high school entry, and it includes academic enrichment, group mental health classes, team building workshops, and youth engagement workshops. We begin with an intense two-week summer program for each cohort, and then follow up with special sessions during the winter break and spring break of each year before high school entry.
Casita College Bound
Part of our after school program for middle and high school students, Casita College Bound is a sequential program that encourages and supports youth as they explore opportunities and plan for college and careers. It includes job shadowing and internship opportunities, career preparation workshops, college application assistance, college visits, financial aid form completion, and test preparation.
EXPLORE: expanding opportunities, exploring and celebrating the visual and performing arts of and for the community.
The Casita Gallery opened with an exhibition of work by Scholastic Art Awards winning students. Over the coming year we will present exhibitions and related activities that engage the varied cultural and ethnic groups throughout the Bronx and greater New York City. Casita Gallery will also serve as a learning laboratory for the middle and high school students in our after school programs. Our students will be intimately involved in all aspects of the creation of an exhibition - from concept to closing day - interacting with partners and artists, handling work, writing publications, and planning events. We will provide a real-world link for our students allowing them to create a deep understanding of an arts career.
Utilizing our new 375-seat theater, we will provide Bronx residents with the opportunity to attend cultural events in their neighborhood to which they would usually not have access. We will collaborate with existing partners, such as Diller-Quaile School of Music, American Ballet Theater, and Flamenco Vivo, and develop new partnerships with organizations such as Julliard, Carnegie Hall, Ballet Hispanico, Dancing in the Streets, and Make Music New York. Casita Presents will also be an incubator for small theater and dance companies that are looking for venues to mount their performances and serve the public.
Community Referral Center & Workshops
Each year, our full-time caseworker helps over 1,500 community members find the critical social and other services that they need. We also offer educational workshops and seminars on important human services issues.
The new Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education includes a number of spaces that will be used to create studios for a revolving artist-in-residence program, designed to serve artists working in the community. Each year, four artists will create art in our space, work with the students in our program, and help sustain the creative regeneration of the South Bronx