2020 National YoungArts Week – A Celebration of the Next Generation of Artists

Written By Gina Perez
January 8, 2020 at 6:45 PM

Photo: 2019 YoungArts Winners in Dance; photo by Em Watson.

For almost 40 years National YoungArts Foundation has recognized the accomplishments of our nation’s young emerging artists during National YoungArts Week. This year, 148 of the nation’s most accomplished young artists in the literary, visual, and performing arts will be celebrated during the week of January 5-12.

Throughout the week, a series of performances and exhibitions will take place to introduce the public to the nation’s next generation of great young artists through performances in classical music, dance, jazz, theater, and voice; a film screening at New World Center, a writers’ reading in the YoungArts Jewel Box; and a design, photography, and visual arts exhibition curated by Maritza Lacayo, Curatorial Assistant from the Pérez Art Museum Miami that will take place in the YoungArts Gallery.

The culmination of the week-long events will take place on Saturday, January 11, with the Backyard Ball. Presented by fine jeweler, Harry Winston, the Backyard Ball will bring together artists, influential community leaders, and philanthropists for an evening of artistry, dining, and dancing. “The BackYard Ball is a celebration of the amazing work these young people have done and the community coming together to support and develop young artists,” said Rebekah Lanae Lengel, Senior Director of Artistic Programs at the National YoungArts Foundation and a 2000 YoungArts Winner in Writing.

National YoungArts Foundation strives to identify the most promising and accomplished young artists across ten different disciplines — visual, literary, and performing arts — and provide them with professional development and educational experiences; plus valuable support including financial awards of up to $10,000. Entrance to this prestigious organization starts at the high school level, grades 10-12 or ages 15-18. A discipline-specific panel of highly regarded artists in their genre review the submissions and select the winners through a competitive blind review process.

The winners are invited to come to Miami for an all-expenses paid week-long comprehensive program in their craft. The young artists connect with leading professionals in their field through master classes and workshops. “We look at what it is they need and try to provide them with some exceptional master teachers,” said Lengel. The young artists selected for the week-long immersion are offered traditional master classes where they work one-on-one with a mentor to receive critical feedback on a project they are currently developing. Or work with professional industry leaders to create a new project through the processed-based classes.

The week focuses on creative exploration of the young artists with masters in their field. Guided by their mentor, they work on their craft and technique, process, and to expand how they think about themselves as an artist. It is a validation to these young artists and an entry into a vast body of support from their own community of peers and from the network of mentors and master teachers. “We hear from past winners and their parents it is this moment that is transformative and gave them the encouragement that they needed to pursue a life in the arts,” said Lengel.

2019 YAW Voice Performance; photo by Em Watson.

Some YoungArts alumni include accomplished leaders in their fields such as Debbie Allen, Daniel Arsham, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Terence Blanchard (being recognized at the Backyard Ball), Camille A. Brown, Viola Davis, Allegra Goodman, Josh Groban, Judith Hill, Wynton Marsalis, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Andrew Rannells, Desmond Richardson, Salman Rushdie, Hunter Schafer, and Mickalene Thomas to name just a few of the over 20,000 alumni that are part of this distinguished group.

Chimeka Offor, “Where Did I Go”, 2019 YAW Winner.

By being part of this elite group, YoungArts winners are eligible for exclusive opportunities, including nomination to one of our nation’s highest honors for high school students, the U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts award. And to a wide range of fellowships, residencies, presentation opportunities at major venues nationwide, and additional financial support. The alumni also have access to YoungArts Post, a free, private digital network for YoungArts artists to connect, collaborate, and learn about additional opportunities. From its main campus in the historic Bacardi Tower and Museum building, the Miami campus supports expanded programming across the country. National YoungArts Foundation supports and encourages the artists throughout their artistic career.

© 2018 Jason Koerner Photography.

“Being selected as a 2000 YoungArts Winner in Writing was a moment of validation that came from an organization I had no connection to. It was this feeling that suddenly this thing I had; that I thought I was good at; this outside entity recognized it and it encouraged me to step forward on the path to being an artist,” said Lengel an accomplished playwright, journalist, and producer. “And now to be the Senior Director of Artistic Programs at National YoungArts Foundation, it is an incredible honor. It is also very personal for me to come back and steward the experience of the next generation of artists.”

To view the times and to purchase tickets to the daily presentations and to the Backyard Ball, visit the National YoungArts Foundation website. is a nonprofit source of theater, dance, visual arts, music and performing arts news. Sign up for our newsletter and never miss a story.

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