Youth Engagement

Studies show that children who engage with the arts can experience lifelong benefits, including higher attendance and graduation rates, higher median income and lower poverty rates. When you add in the elements of social-emotional learning to arts programming, we have the opportunity to help build a community of lifelong lovers of art who are kinder, more compassionate and understand the value of arts in their lives.

After-School Programming

Our after-school youth programs serve childhood, elementary and middle school students across the metro during the school year. Our teaching artists provide a diverse array of meaningful and engaging creative arts activities during these Out of School-Time hours. These programs reach more than 3,000 students a year and are made possible through funding from The Sherwood Foundation, Collective for Youth and The Jetton Foundation. WhyArts partners with 30+ OPS schools as well as the NorthStar Foundation, Nelson Mandela School, Jesuit Academy, Kids Can, Completely Kids and others. Thanks to our 2021 merger with Arts in Motion, we now offer the following movement programs for metro youth:

Dancing Classrooms

Dancing Classrooms, developed in 1994, introduces students to ballroom dance, which they can enjoy throughout life. It’s also a specific method of teaching dance that’s designed to increase social and emotional development through teamwork, mutual respect and discipline among diverse classmates. Instruction occurs in the form of a 10-week residency within the structure of a regular school day. Through the mastery and performance of six basic ballroom dances, students:

  • Develop a greater sense of confidence, civility, tolerance and patience within themselves and for each other
  • Improve their fitness and coordination as they focus their physical energy on rhythmic movement to music
  • Broaden their knowledge of the artistic, cultural, historic and geographic elements of the six dances

In 2006, Omaha became an official Dancing Classrooms location – the first city outside of New York to offer the program. Today, Dancing Classrooms operates in 60 classrooms at 33 schools throughout Omaha, serving more than 2,000 students annually. It is free to the student and is all-inclusive. If requested, students are provided with free dress clothes for the performances, which they can keep following their participation in the program.

Saturday Academy

Saturday Academy is the weekend extension of Dancing Classrooms. It offers students throughout Omaha an opportunity to expand on what they have learned during the in-school program and work with a diverse group of students across the city. This program is open to any Dancing Classrooms student. It is free, all-inclusive, offered at an accessible school location and includes American Sign Language interpreters and free bus transportation to and from the classes.

Take a look at our youth engagement in action below!


Middle School Students Are Immersed in Benson’s Art Scene

One way to learn about art is to create it. Another way to learn about art is to immerse yourself … Read More

Brazen: an Omaha Public Library | Omaha Girls Rock | WhyArts Collaboration

Supported by The Sherwood Foundation, this project was designed to develop and support the social-emotional learning skills of middle school girls through storytelling, music and other creative outlets. Omaha Public Library selected “Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked The World” by Penelope Bagieu as the inspiration for the project. For nine weeks, femme identifying middle school students from King Science and Lewis & Clark read stories, created beats, wrote lyrics and created artwork that was compiled into a zine. Here’s a look at their journey.

Opening Reception for Journey with WhyArts Spring Exhibition April 19

WhyArts will showcase the artistic talents of its teaching faculty and community partners with a spring exhibition at Gallery 1516. … Read More

Express Yourself Art Exhibition on Display at B Side through March 30

The collaborative artwork of middle school students from Omaha Public Schools is on display at The B Side of Benson … Read More

Machines Revisited Returns to Select Metro ACP Classes

Some things are just too good to retire after one use. This spring, WhyArts will bring its second year of … Read More

Opening Reception for Express Yourself Art Exhibition March 2

The collaborative artwork of middle school students from Omaha Public Schools will be on display at The B Side of … Read More