Artward Bound at MassArt is a free four-year program for high school students interested in visual arts and design. Throughout the school year and summer, Artward Bound prepares them with the artistic and academic skills needed for admission to and success at an art/design college or other post-secondary institution.

Key Takeaways

  • A balance of activities, including academics, enrichment, and independent work time, helps to keep students engaged and participating.

  • It is important to communicate clear expectations for participation, including attendance, to both students and families.

  • Youth should feel challenged in all activities, and should have ample opportunity to receive and implement feedback.

  • Providing opportunities for leadership ensures that youth take ownership of their work.

Q: How busy are youth at your program? Do they ever have much time when they aren’t engaged in an activity?

A: Youth are busy and engaged during class times, but have periodic breaks for unstructured free time. During the academic year, we have a transition lounge period where staff and students hang out, play games, finish homework or receive tutoring. This opportunity is available to all students and happens about an hour before class to allow for a transition between school and Artward Bound. Usually students are in grade-specific classes so the transition time allows for all cohorts to mix and get to know each other and the different teachers and mentors.


During the summer session, youth have a break between their Math and ELA classes (about 20 minutes) and a long lunch between academic and studio classes (about 45 minutes). During these times, students are free to eat, socialize, and play games with other students, mentors, and staff. This is a really popular time where we connect as a family and model behavior expectations in a relaxed environment. Those expectations include: respect, being on time, sharing, fair play, curiosity, caring, silliness, and belonging. It’s also a great time to address any issues or redirect student behavior in a caring atmosphere.

Q: What rules does your program set for youth behavior, and how do you ensure that the youth respect those rules?

A: Artward Bound establishes a culture of mutual respect by setting clear expectations of youth behavior at the beginning of every term. We expect that students arrive on time every day, and students are held accountable for communicating in advance if they will be late or absent. Students are also expected to respect their peers and their artwork; critique is an important component of any art class, so we review how to provide helpful, constructive criticism. While youth are usually respectful, sometimes one-on-one interventions are needed to check behavior. Depending on the severity, this generally involves communicating with their guardian about the situation, meeting individually with the student, and working with the instructor to help redirect the student’s behavior. We also monitor attendance daily and communicate with the student and parents if we see a pattern of absences to understand the situation and work with the student and family. The main thing we expect is good citizenship and good communication. Most of the students do a great job communicating their needs and any issues we should prepare for.

Q: How do you communicate expectations to youth about their participation in activities?

A: Instructors, mentors, tutors, and administrative staff model expectations for youth participation in team building activities and general program operations by ensuring that all members of the Artward Bound community – students of all grade levels and staff – participate in activities. We ask them to bring their best selves to the program and that each individual matters. Class size is small with an average of 12 students with one instructor and one college age mentor per class. This makes the class experience intimate and each contribution is noticed and has impact.


We also send out a newsletter (every 4-6 weeks) to the community that updates students, families, and community partners about class and student progress. Our students help generate images, photos, and branding material that communicate the values of the program. We also ask students for feedback on what’s working and what can be improved. We use this information to guide program development each semester. This builds trust and faith that their input matters. Students also have opportunities to develop leadership skills by being peer mentors, junior staff associates, or teacher’s assistants. Students see other students leading by example and want to do the same. We communicate with students and families by phone, email and text to remind them of special events or program activities. Lasty, the Director gives out her cell phone  to students and families (with criteria to be respectful) to model accessibility from the top of the organization.

Q: How focused are youth on the activities? What do you do to encourage them to focus?

A: We are a college prep arts and design program, so we expect the following: curiosity, creativity, practice, perseverance, integrity, and follow through. At the beginning of each semester, we have an orientation for students where we go over expectations for behavior and program participation. We also introduce staff and instructors who go over and give out a syllabus for each course. Each syllabus outlines what will be learned and why it matters. Students are expected to be in classes for 2 hours a day, 2 days a week during the academic year and for 6 weeks of 8 hour days during the summer. Student are all learning specific techniques, materials, and understandings. At the end of each semester, students are expected to write artist statements discussing their intention and present their work to the community in the form of critiques and at a culminating exhibition where they show the products of their learning to their family and the community. At the exhibition, several students from each class are also expected to tell the community what they learned and what they enjoyed.


Artward Bound, a program of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt), combines academic and artistic instruction to prepare high school students in Boston for postsecondary success. Students participate in art classes during the year, and in a six week summer program. Students also have access to opportunities for leadership, cultural experiences, family engagement, and mentorship from current college students.