Since its founding in 2017, the N.Y.C.-based non-profit Creative Muse has provided programming and mentorship to youth and adults, with an emphasis on creativity and mindfulness as 21st century skills needed for holistic success and innovation. Primarily serving people of color, immigrant communities, and low-income individuals, the organization believes all youth and adults should have access to creative and social-emotional skills that can help them unlock their potential to be change-makers in their lives and in the world. During the height of the pandemic, Creative Muse offered online creative programs for New York City schools and students in financial need, and this year it ran 12 in-person arts programs throughout Manhattan.
Now, thanks to a highly coveted $1.7M grant from Creatives Rebuild New York — designed to support employment opportunities for New York artists — Creative Muse is working with a high-profile team of multidisciplinary artists to exponentially expand the footprint of arts-integrated programming on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. This will include producing artist residencies at University Settlement’s Campos Plaza, providing vulnerable youth, families, and communities more opportunity to express themselves creatively and build individual skills. With access to a theater, digital tablets, beat-making equipment, and more, the artists will produce work that celebrates the community, creates employment opportunities, and integrates mindfulness within a social-emotional learning framework.
“Providing professional artists with full-time employment, in an environment that allows them to pursue their craft, will lead to more robust programming for our students and communities and help solidify New York’s status as an artist-friendly state,” says Creative Muse executive director Jamie Parganos.
As an artist-led organization, Creative Muse was also founded with the goal of providing employment and mentorship opportunities for other adult artist and a supportive environment where they are valued as full-time employees. To that end, the organization offers higher than average hourly rates, monthly customized professional development workshops, a robust substitute roster, a two-teacher per class requirement, and a supportive environment for artists to pursue their work.
“As an artist, flexibility in a work schedule is crucial,” says teaching artist and actor Libby Lee. “This is the reason why many artists have little choice but to take on various part time/contract jobs instead of committing to full-time work, effectively making basic socio-economic rights such as financial stability, healthcare, retirement savings, etc. luxuries instead of the norm. A workplace that ensures all of these rights while allowing us the freedom to pursue our own artistic endeavors is a rare and unbelievably special opportunity.”
“While being a musician has many redeeming qualities, we are merely human and yearn for true fulfillment,” adds multi-instrumentalist and producer Prince Terrence. “Having the opportunity to apply my multiple decades of artistic experience to work with future generations fills a void that performing alone is unable to.”
Creative Muse founder Jamie Parganos first began designing enrichment programs in a church basement in Queens 20 years ago and has since held roles at key organizations throughout N.Y.C., including the YWCA, Manhattan Youth, etc. Inspired by the need for fresh program design in informal education programs with limited resources, Jamie teamed up with other nonprofit professionals to design a new model for youth and adult programming that centers creativity and mindfulness, formulating the basis for the creative process and the values that now shape the organization.
With the support of CRNY, Creative Muse plans to continue to expand their programming throughout 2022, further integrating creativity and mindfulness exercises into programming that students can use outside of Campos Plaza. All planned programs will integrate Creative Muse’s program model for mindfulness and social emotional learning, which includes teaching tools to support resiliency and optimistic thinking. In addition, Creative Muse also plans to host community events, including slam poetry readings, comedy shows, open-mic nights, and more.
Creative Muse teaching artists include:
• Chris Carr – conceptual artist/photographer/writer
• Olga Elliot – filmmaker/screenwriter/photographer
• Richard Guerzon – painter/multimedia artist
• Joel Knopf – composer/lyricist
• Libby Lee – actress/designer
• Pedro Ramirez – visual/graphic artist
• Krystal Renée – dancer/performer
• Jamie Parganos – vocalist/poet
• Prince Terrence – multi-instrumentalist/producer