15 Simple Ways to Celebrate Youth Art Month in Your School!

YAM visual journal page

We all know art educators should be advocating for quality visual art education every single day. It’s just a part of our job. But, in March, we have a special tool to help us advocate.

Youth Art Month is that tool!

In 1961, the Council for Art Education designated March as “Children’s Art Month.” In 1969, the event grew to include older students as well. And thus, Youth Art Month was born.

YAM, as it’s commonly known, is held each March. It’s a wonderful way to educate the public about the power of art education. Every child has the right to learn to create and think critically through a comprehensive art education program. When the arts are supported by the public, students are the ultimate winners!

Unfortunately, millions of students continue to go without an arts education on a daily basis. YAM is a way to showcase why this is a mistake on so many levels.

Youth Art Month is the way to share the need for quality art education with others.

person hanging art show

Administrators, school board members, community leaders, and, most importantly, parents must see the need for quality art education. It’s important for stakeholders and voters in your community realize our children deserve opportunities to excel in our society. This means the arts MUST be included in our schools!

Participating in YAM is simple!

All art educators “do” YAM on a daily basis already. But, during March, consider the opportunities YAM can provide. I encourage you to go one step further and document your students’ work!

I recommend following your state YAM theme or the national YAM theme. Of course, you can create your own, too. During my time as the YAM coordinator for Georgia, we used several creative themes which we unveiled at our fall conference.

Here are 3 theme ideas to bring to your next state conference!

  1. “eARTh: Where ART Makes a Difference
    Give each teacher a brown lunch bag. Fill it with lesson ideas and advocacy advice! If you want to take it to the next level, consider including a mini bottle of water and a snack or two.
  2. “It’s a pARTy”
    Give each teacher a party bag filled with the state YAM info. Include party hats and shoot off a confetti gun to get people even more excited!
  3. “Tool Time”
    At the conference, start to collaboratively build a state-wide YAM mascot. Then, have it travel across the state as students add to the mascot. When we did this, over 1000 students were able to add to the mascot as it grew to be over nine feet tall!

newspaper clipping showing collaborative mascot project

Now that you have some ideas to get teachers fired up, let’s talk about how to celebrate YAM in your school.

Below are ten simple ways to get started as well as five more in-depth ideas.

10 Simple Ways to Acknowledge and Celebrate YAM.

  1. Display student art in your school and label it, “Youth Art Month Exhibit.”  Better yet, let your students hang the exhibit!
  2. Participate in your state Youth Art Month Flag competition. If your state doesn’t do this, be the leader who gets it started! You never know when your student’s work might be selected as the art represented on the state flag!
    artwork and flag
  3. Hold a community art exhibit at a local business like a coffee shop, museum or library. Don’t forget to advertise!
  4. Invite parents and community leaders to come to your art room and observe or work alongside your students for a day.
  5. Invite practicing community artists to share their experiences and expertise with your students.
  6. Give students the prompt of “YAM” as a weekly visual journal assignment. I have had some incredible works come out of this prompt.
    YAM visual journal page
  7. Ask to meet with your legislators and bring them a few pieces of framed artwork. Don’t forget to include the always important “artist statement.” You could also invite these legislators, your mayor, your superintendent, or your principal to officially proclaim YAM in your school. If you do, don’t forget to call your local newspaper. It might become front-page news!
  8. Post student art on social media, advertising YAM in your school and community
  9. Have your students make art to donate or to sell to earn money for charity.
  10. Have a week or month of school-wide YAM activities. One example could be “Color Day” where students dress in specific colors or color schemes. Another example could be “Art History Day” where students dress as their favorite historical artist or painting.

If you have the time to dig a little bit deeper, here are 5 more fun ideas for incredible YAM events.

1.Hold a Vincent Van YAM Jam!

Van Gogh’s birthday is March 30th, 1853, making it a great day to wrap up all of your YAM activities. You might consider celebrating Van Gogh’s birthday with a student art exhibit! In my school, we taught the students to sing the song Vincent by Don McLean and then created a collaborative video of students’ visual responses to the song. But, the possibilities are endless!

2. Hold an Empty Bowls Dinner.

This is a great service learning activity where every art student makes a simple pinch pot to act as a visual reminder that many people see nothing but empty bowls as they struggle with hunger issues. The event culminates in a dinner where community members are invited to come and eat soup, bread, and water in exchange for a small donation. We have had our students perform and set up the cafeteria, create the invitations, and host an art exhibit to add to this special event. The money raised goes directly to our local food bank, and each guest leaves with a student-created “empty bowl” pinch pot.

3. Create a YAM Art Tunnel.

The first year I introduced YAM to my school, I brought in a giant refrigerator box and had my students turn it into an interactive and educational art history tunnel. Students researched art history eras from pre-historic to post-modern and made art images to go with the research. The info was put inside the box, and students could walk through with flashlights and learn about the history of art. We added colored crepe paper on the front and back of the box and decorated the outside as well.

4. Have students create portraits of your staff members.

Having students create portraits of teachers and other staff members in your building is a memorable experience for everyone. It’s a great way to celebrate the hardworking people in your building. It’s also a great way for students to work on their portrait skills and makes for a beautiful and powerful exhibit.

staff portrait

5. Make Artist Trading Cards!

Trading art with students from other schools across the nation or the world is a perfect way to collaborate, share, and celebrate your students’ talents. The best part is that there’s no wrong way to do it! It can be as simple as making art on 2″ x 3″ Bristol board and swapping with one other class. Or, you can go nuts and get involved in a much bigger swap. Make sure your kids sign their art! ATCs are always one of my students’ favorite activities.

Finally, empower your students to advocate for themselves!

It’s helpful to remind your students that many employers are looking to hire people with the exact skills the arts provide. In fact, according to this report from The Conference Board, 78% of employers are looking for candidates that have the “ability to look spontaneously beyond the specifics of a question.” Sharing data like this helps your students be the best YAM advocates because they see the value of their own art education.

If you’re looking to share even more reasons the arts matter, download the handy list below! Share it with your students, your school, and wider community!

downloadable resource

Download Now!

These are a few exciting simple, ways to honor the importance of this national event. You can go as big or small as you’d like, but I’d encourage you to find at least one way to recognize this national event!

If you’re a YAM coordinator, remember you’ll be required to collect all of the info from your teacher’s Youth Art Month celebrations and create a state scrapbook, so don’t forget to document! The Council for Art Education gives out national awards for state YAM participation, so be sure your state is involved!

scrapbook page

Together, we can share with the nation and the world the importance of art education and our children will continue to reap the rewards! Use the YAM tool, created for art educators, and watch your program soar!

What YAM activities do you have planned for March 2018?

What YAM activities have you done in the past to help promote your program?

Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Debi West

Debi West is one of AOEU’s adjunct instructors and a former AOEU Writer and NBCT art educator. She loves sharing with others and enthusiastically stands behind her motto, “Together we ART better!”

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