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Engagement, Education and Enrichment for Everyone

UpstArt is the Lincoln Arts Council’s flagship arts engagement program, bringing arts into schools, the community, and at the Lancaster County Youth Services Center Pathfinder Program. We bring enriching art opportunities to over 5,000 Lincoln adults and children to empower a diverse group of youth to channel their creativity, build their confidence and connect with others.

From its inception in 2010 until the Covid pandemic in 2021, Lincoln Art Council's upstArt program focused principally on school residencies in Title I LPS schools. In that role we served thousands of children in art classrooms across the city. When COVID struck and schools shut their doors to outside visitors, we had to rethink our strategy. What followed was a new focus on community human service organization partnerships, a realignment that proved so fruitful that we had to ask ourselves: is this a new and better way to move forward? 'Yes,' we concluded, for several reasons:

- There are organizations across town with ready access to their focus demographic who are eager for resources. We have resources but are not easily equipped with the means to reach these groups. A partnership makes perfect sense. A pooling of money and social infrastructure maximizes what each partner can deliver

- We know the benefits of the arts to those in need. Many service organizations provide essential basic services. The addition of arts programming can complement and enrich those services, especially in rehabilitative environments. The arts can also offer therapeutic benefits in shelters, transitional housing and senior communities.

- There are marginalized groups in Lincoln who have no access to the arts. We can reach this population via neighborhood organizations such as The Bay, and cultural organizations such as The Lincoln Asian Community and Cultural Center (LACC). For example, we assisted the LACC in their 'Untold Migrant Stories' project this past year, giving voice to children of migrants and refugees.

- The arts provide identity and foster inclusion. By supporting the arts in migrant communities, we can help them promote their cultures and traditions, easing the road to assimilation. Cultures can demonstrate their unique richness through their cooking, art and music. We want to give voice to these traditions.

We are now fully invested in this new strategy for arts outreach. We have collected a database of more than 60 potential community partners, and through a recruitment effort now have a roster of 24 teaching artists. Our projects now fall into three categories:

Schools - LPS Community Learning Centers (CLCs) and Pathfinder Program.

We are retaining a strong relationship with our wonderful partners at LPS. Through after-school CLCs We will now be able to offer services in more than just the art classroom. We will explore the arts with elementary and middle school children, including theatre, music, dance, writing and speaking. Conversations with CLC coordinators at LPS have led to an agreement to implement 26 after-school residencies this year, and 32 next year.

We will also continue our rewarding partnership with the Lancaster County Youth Services Detention Center's Pathfinder Program, where our art instruction residencies continue to make a profound impact year after year.

Community – Human Service Organization partnerships

We will provide arts resources and opportunities to local partners in order for them to add the arts to their roster of services. New community partners include the Autism Family network, CEDARS, The Bridge, Nebraska Children’s and Family Foundation and several others. Please click the button at the bottom of the page for more detailed descriptions of these partnerships.

Public Spaces – Arts opportunities taken to the people.

We have opened a public gallery and art activity space in Gateway Mall called Gateway to the Arts. The space will host interactive events for six months and will be led by artist Ann Williams who has created a project called ‘Garden of Possibilities’. Visitors will create flowers and butterflies that will be exhibited around the mall at the end of the project. We will also do an event at the Graduate Hotel downtown.

UpstArt will continue to have a role in the Lincoln Arts Festival and Mayor’s Arts Awards as well, supporting and providing opportunities to local and emerging artists.

UpstArt is about more than just providing access to the arts. It bridges the gap for those with limited resources and opportunities, it provides therapeutic strength and comfort to those struggling with physical and mental illness, and it enhances socio-emotional development in adults and children. This is what inspires the upstArt mission. This is why we do what we do.