Assertive, Creative, Passionate.
Those are the words that Dana Carr, Executive Director of the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center (LTYC), uses to describe herself. Those core attributes have helped her pivot the non-profit arts organization over the last year, which has been a tremendously challenging time for arts organizations in general.
Dana has always loved the arts. She grew up in Baltimore, attended Baltimore School for the Arts, and studied theatre at New York University. Now, the mom of three and former Baltimore County school teacher works expand access to the arts to all children in the Greater Baltimore and Washington areas. Because of the pandemic, a lot of that work is currently happening from her home office in Owings Mills where she lives with her husband, children (a toddler, a preschooler, and a teenager), and dog.
She sat down over virtual coffee — hers is black, and she only drinks one cup in the morning to give her day an energizing kick-start — to chat about LTYC, how she encourages her own children embrace the power of the arts, and how she turned obstacles into opportunities over the last twelve months.
Coffee with Dana Carr, Executive Director of the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center
Tell us about the Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center. What does the organization do? How did you come to be Executive Director?
Leaders of Tomorrow Youth Center (LTYC) is an arts education non profit organization that serves young people and families in Maryland and D.C. All of our programming is arts-based and focused on the creativity, academic success and social development of young people. We have an amazing team of leaders, consultants, instructors and artists who help to make a difference in the lives of those we serve.
I started working with LTYC over a decade ago as a teacher, and then the Director of Arts Education. When the position became available, I was teaching full time in Baltimore County and ready to make a change. I wanted to still be impactful when it came to youth and the arts, but I wanted to do that from outside of my classroom. Being in this role has been an amazing and transformative experience as I have learned so much, and am able to do things I love like create new programs, write curriculum, and train teachers.
This has been a particularly hard year for arts organizations, but you’ve found some ways to really have LTYC shine! Can you tell us about some of the innovative ways that the organization has pivoted?
Yes! We look at obstacles as opportunities and always want to be solution-based. Most of our programming has become virtual and we have provided our team with tons of professional development around teaching virtually to support them through this challenging time. We developed a series called Art Now, which are arts-based lessons on demand that families can do at home or teachers can implement into their lessons. They are short, and cover all of the arts from dance and theatre, to culinary and media arts. They even have academic connections as well. We have around 20 lessons to choose from and will continue to grow this library of resources. This collection will be featured in our new online arts learning platform LTYC LEARN. This is a virtual space for educators, artists and youth to take classes and participate in programs that ignite creativity and help us all to reimagine the art of learning.
Finally, we always try to meet the needs of the communities we serve and be responsive. We have developed in person learning centers at four sites in Howard County for middle school students who were struggling with virtual learning. These students attend daily from 8-5 and receive virtual learning support, arts enrichment, college and career readiness, social and emotional lessons and curriculum around social justice. The outcomes have been astounding as students’ academic grades have improved, and their overall social and mental states of being. We are so excited and honored to be able to continue to serve in a number of ways throughout this pandemic that allows us to still carry out LTYC’s mission and vision.
Clearly the arts have played a major role in your life. How do you share that love and inspiration with your kids?
I share that love with my kids by making sure that they have access to and opportunities in the arts as much as possible. We read books, and talk about the pictures and colors. My daughter goes to school for theatre and also takes dance classes. We started that very early. Any way we can try and incorporate a love for the arts we do. Drawing, singing, making videos – – my house stays very busy! I want them to know and feel the power of the arts and how it can change your mood, bring people together and help you to express yourself in a powerful way.
If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that we need to take time and nourish ourselves as well as our families. What do you do to keep yourself sane and fulfilled?
I try to have a moment of quiet each day, and sometimes it is only that-one moment. Just to breathe, be still, and take everything in. I also get massages, light candles and essential oils, read, and occasionally work out. I also enjoy catching up on my favorite shows and just relaxing on the couch, when I can.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to doing in 2021?
Spending time with my family and hopefully going somewhere where there is sun. This time has helped me to appreciate cherished moments, and I hope to have more of them in 2021.