Youth Arts Institute

Accessible arts for Hartford youth

Providing wide access to the arts at Charter Oak and off-site for Hartford youth to strengthen family and community through professional and community arts programming.

Visual and Performing Arts Programs

Family Activities

YAI Class Listing

YAI Faculty

About Youth Arts Institute

Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Institute is dedicated to providing wide access to the arts for Hartford youth and to strengthening family and community through professional and community arts programming.

We do this by…

  • Offering free, inclusive, visual art, music, theater and dance classes both onsite at Charter Oak and through partnerships.
  • Offering free family events that encourage life-long learning through the arts.

Our values…

  • We believe that everyone is an artist.
  • We believe in providing programs to meet the needs of the whole person.
  • We believe in offering a variety of classes in order to stimulate creativity and appeal to different learning styles.
  • We believe in allowing students an opportunity to identify with art in their own unique way.
  • We believe in making the arts accessible to everyone.
  • We believe in the art of collaboration and the importance of a final presentation to celebrate the achievement of goals and learning.
  • We believe in the value of Non-Violent Communication, a conflict resolution technique that helps students to express themselves and get their needs met without resorting to anger or violence.

Support for Youth Arts Institute music programs at Charter Oak Cultural Center provided by Spread Music Now.

For more information or to register

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Visual and performing arts programs 

We offer classes in music, visual arts, dance and theater.

We also offer Hartford’s first All-City Youth Orchestra (HACYO) for middle and high school students in the greater-Hartford area and the Charter Oak Funky Dawgz Brass Band, run by the nationally known Funky Dawgz Brass Band.

Our free programming is designed to help those most in need and we therefore consider household income when we assess eligibility for our classes. We welcome families to apply. We will get back to you as soon as possible about the status of your application.

School Year Programming

During and after-school visual arts and performing arts: At Charter Oak and offsite, we offer classes in music, visual arts, dance and theater.  We also offer Hartford’s first All-City Youth Orchestra (HACYO) for middle and high school students in the greater-Hartford area and the Charter Oak Funky Dawgz Brass Band, run by the nationally known Funky Dawgz Brass Band.

Summer Programming

Every summer, Charter Oak Cultural Center hosts multiple camps, which vary each year. Programs include a brass band camp with the Funky Dawgz, and a combined music, dance and visual art camp.  All programs are free, in support of our mission to provide all children with access to high-quality arts education.

Good Vibrations

Awarded Obama White House Champions of Change

In the spring of 2015, Charter Oak launched Good Vibrations in partnership with The Hartford Police Department. Twenty-five middle school boys were selected to take either a free guitar class (and receive a free guitar) or a rap poetry class, in which students learn to rap and make CDs of their work. The youth and officers made music together, under the supervision of Hartford master musicians. Led by facilitators from Everyday Democracy, they engaged in dialogue about police-community interactions, taking a step toward building a positive relationship with each other.

Music Matters

Music Matters is the first program of its kind in Hartford. Students in grades 4 and 5 receive private and ensemble instrumental music instruction in a comprehensive afterschool program 4 days a week. The program includes a snack, homework assistance, and dinner each evening.

Shared Ability Arts

Taken from a segregated classroom, these students with multiple and severe disabilities meet weekly to dance, create artwork, and be partnered with typically-developing peers. Classes are held with a physical therapist present so students are able to stand with assistance or with special equipment.

Funky Dawgz Brass Band

Charter Oak Cultural Center’s free brass band program with members of the nationally-known Funky Dawgz Brass Band. The ensemble learns selections of New Orleans Jazz. 

Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra

Hartford’s first all-city youth orchestra enables Hartford’s young people to experience the exhilaration of making music together. 

It is well-documented that students who learn to play an instrument are more likely to achieve academic success and develop self-esteem, confidence and creative and critical thinking skills. Music education in the Hartford school system is sparse, at best. After three years of providing instrumental music lessons to Hartford inner city students, we now offer Hartford’s first All-City Youth Orchestra, entirely free to underserved Hartford youth.

For more information, contact Susan Mazer, Managing Director, HACYO 

Family Activities

Strengthening family and community through professional and community arts programming.

Read It and Sleep

Read It and Sleep is our free monthly event for local children and their families to enjoy healthy snacks, hear a bedtime story and take home a free book.

Each month, Read It and Sleep chooses a theme — an important character trait or social justice issue — to build on. The book, games and art activities explore the theme, giving participants a fun way to deepen their literacy skills and explore important ideas in being a good citizen.

Dinner and a Movie

In the summer months, we offer Dinner and a Movie in our garden. This program provides an opportunity for families to enjoy a free community meal while they view a film outdoors in our garden. The films we select are based on popular books and we provide each family with a free copy of the book to take home. 

Holidays & Special Events

Charter Oak offers family holiday events and activities. Keep an eye on our events calendar!

Youth Arts & Family Events

Youth Arts News & Updates

Charter Oak’s Got Talent

Charter Oak’s Got Talent Two of our Youth Arts Institute students - Saagariha and Sarvariha Sunoj - were winners of the Be a Friend Lip Sync Contest! Their mother sent Charter Oak a nice note:...

Here Comes the Poetry Bus!

Here Comes the Poetry Bus!

Charter Oak Cultural Center is proud to present The Poetry Bus, a CT Transit vehicle featuring excerpts from poems written by our Youth Arts Initiative students. Working with YAI teaching artist and...

Lip Sync Battle!

Lip Sync Battle!

Calling all youth! Be A Friend Project is hosting a lip synch battle competition to raise awareness around social bullying. Broadway judges and awesome prizes await your entry!...

Youth Arts Institute Fall 2020 Update

Youth Arts Institute Fall 2020 Update

This fall, Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Institute will be offering virtual arts classes in music, dance, theater, visual arts and more! Our programs are available to any student age 6 to...