Lauren Slone doesn't see why STEM and arts education have to be mutually exclusive.
"I think the conversation is often either/or, whereas I believe both are invaluable," she says. "Arts training cultivates habits and solution-seeking qualities that are critical to every domain."
Slone pointed to her dance training, which she credits for helping her collaborate well with others and helping her have the capacity to explore different solutions to every challenge she faces in her line of work as the vice president of artistic programs at the National YoungArts Foundation. "Exposure to a one-off elective — let alone more intensive courses of study — can yield greater appreciation for multiple points of view and the critical thinking necessary to make advancements in STEM or any other areas of inquiry."
Slone will be putting that skillset to use during the 2024 National YoungArts Week, January 8–12, when audiences are invited to meet the next generation of young artists. The events will take place at the New World Center in Miami Beach and YoungArts' campus in Edgewater.
Every year, the foundation selects a group of extremely talented artists to present their work to the public in Miami. The winners are chosen through a highly competitive application process, reviewed by a panel of artists in what Slone describes as a "rigorous adjudication process." These budding artists are not your run-of-the-mill high-school-educated visual artist, dancer, or actor. They are highly committed to their craft and could very well be the next big creative force in. a few years.
"This year, winners were selected from more than 9,000 applications across ten artistic disciplines: classical music, dance, design, film, jazz, photography, theater, visual arts, voice, and writing," Slone says.
"Among the 2024 class of YoungArts of nearly 700 award winners, panelists selected 153 particularly outstanding YoungArts winners with distinction to experience National YoungArts Week." Those selected now have the opportunity to attend YoungArts Week to share their work, which is up for cash awards of up to $10,000; experience classes and workshops; and receive mentorship from artists in their fields.
Slone joined the foundation only last year, so this will be her first YoungArts Week, and she admits she's excited to experience every moment of it.
"I cannot wait to connect with all of the artists joining us on campus, including the winners, panelists, and guests from across the nation," she says. 'I've seen some of the beautiful backstage documentary footage in our archives, and it moved me to tears to see these artists preparing to share their work with Miami audiences. I remember what it was like to be 15, training as a pre-professional dancer, feeling that mixture of fear and joy backstage before a performance, and knowing with certainty that that was the life I wanted to pursue."
The performances are open to the public, something Slone says is vital in helping the winners grow their craft. "The processes of creating and sharing work are a key part of the relationship-building necessary to scaffold a life and a career in the field," she says. "Presentation opportunities also provide invaluable feedback loops in terms of how their work is perceived, analyzed, and celebrated."
"Part of the magic of the week is that the winners come prepared with that material, but they also receive individualized coaching, mentorship, and support from the panelists and guest artists to take that work to the next level," Slone adds.
National YoungArts Week. Monday, January 8, through Friday, January 12, at the New World Center, 500 17th St., Miami Beach; and YoungArts Campus, 2100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; youngarts.org. Admission to the art exhibition is free with RSVP; tickets $15.