Working with Youth


The intent is to work within school districts & develop partnerships.

The Williamson Street Art Center encourages others to engage at-risk students through project-based learning so as to build confidence, ease anxiety & help increase school attendance. Educators from Prairie Phoenix Academy in Sun Prairie, the SAIL Program at West High School, and others have told us that data shows increased attendance for students participating in our mural activities.

We encourage you to work with neighborhood centers, neighborhood associations, after-school programs, summer programs, public heath departments & develop other partnerships. An example of a successful school / neighborhood partnership is the one we did with Leopold Neighborhood Association and Leopold Elementary School, that resulted in a painted mural fence and mosaic stepping stones for the community gardens at Leopold Park.

 It helps immensely to devise simple pre- and post- tests which will show positive outcomes for participating youth. Partner with academics whenever possible in this endeavor. Service learning students from universities can be helpful, serving as role models, while benefiting greatly themselves.  

Focus on working with youth so they reach their potential.

Welcome community members to work alongside youth in creating murals – actively seek community participation. It is important to train community members so they have realistic perspectives when working with youth. Make sure they understand the importance of appropriate boundaries, but of equal importance, the need to find the goodness in every child. Use a trauma-informed approach, emphasizing the stages to build resiliency. Also include topics such as: what to do about disclosures of abuse and neglect, how to use open-ended questions to allow youth to talk about their lives while painting, de-escalating volatile situations, why the arts are particularly useful for making a difference in anyone’s life, and make sure to do criminal background checks on everyone who works with young people.

Our curriculum uses best practice in the field of trauma-informed care of children, with a particular emphasis on using the arts to build resiliency. Sharon used the curriculum she wrote for crisis care of children for Madison’s Respite Center, a 24-hour emergency crisis center for kids, where she was program manager for 15 years – to write a curriculum for DAMA (Dane Arts Mural Arts). What Sharon learned about at-risk kids during her 26 years at Center for Families is incorporated into DAMA’s arts-based curriculum.