For Arquitectonica’s inaugural program at YoungArts Miami, nearly a dozen South Florida high school students were given six hours to produce drawings and models of a cell phone charging station and a Wi-Fi hotspot. The results included a wave-shaped structure that complemented the ocean view and incorporated a bike rack near its crest; a series of cylindrical booths that resembled trees and provided individual and couple seating; and a multi-tiered lounge-like environment that provided overhead sunscreens and solar panels.
“They were really impressive,” says Bernardo Fort-Brescia, co-founder of Arquitectonica, the renowned Miami-based architecture firm. “Everyone was pleasantly surprised to see what they did in a single day.”
The intense design planning session, known as a charrette, took place this spring and served as the kickoff of a five-year partnership between YoungArts and Arquitectonica, where students develop in the fields of architecture and landscape architecture, as well as industrial, graphic and fashion design under the organization’s Design Discipline platform. The sponsorship includes a paid summer internship at the firm and ongoing mentoring.
Carnival Cruise founder Ted Arison and his wife, Lin, established the National YoungArts Foundation in Miami in 1981. It now includes branches in New York and Los Angeles. The goal is to foster creativity in high school students from ages 15 to 18. In addition to providing unique recognition and mentoring programs for aspiring artists of all stripes—ranging from actors and dancers to musicians and visual artists—YoungArts is the sole agency that nominates Presidential Scholars in the Arts. The YoungArts alumni roster reads like a Who’s Who of the performance and art world, including Ugly Betty star Vanessa Williams, Tony Award winner Viola Davis, Kerry Washington of Scandal fame, Entourage’s Adrian Grenier, Metropolitan Opera star Eric Owens, rapper and singer Nicki Minaj, country singer Chris Young, and visual artists Hernan Bas and Doug Aitken.
In 2013, with the help of artistic advisor Frank Gehry, YoungArts launched its Design Discipline, whose programming features lectures from stalwarts in the field, such as 9/11 Memorial architect Michael Arad and Paola Antonelli of the Museum of Modern Art.
The scholarship and encouragement that YoungArts provides is incalculable, notes Fort-Brescia, adding that at least one of the projects created during the charrette may become a reality. “I think they’re buildable,” he says. “A developer showed interest in constructing one of these.”
That’s the kind of relationship that YoungArts’ new president and CEO, Carolina García Jayaram, seeks to promote among students and professionals. García Jayaram, who joins the organization in June after heading a similar program at United States Artists, says both parties benefit from the relationship. The aspiring architects, artists and designers receive the kind of guidance and exposure found in undergraduate and MFA programs. The professionals get an infusion of new ideas and energy. “Professionals should be devising ways to reach emerging artists,” García Jayaram says, “both to provide opportunities, but also to learn from them about the evolving ways in which artists are practicing.”