Joy Murrieta is the co-founder and Executive Director of Main IDEA Youth & Arts, serving Worcester’s youth from ages 6-17, specifically those in the Main South neighborhood. Main IDEA’s programs include music, dance, visual art, drama, and creative writing, all offered for free.
As with many organizations, COVID-19 has forced Main IDEA to postpone programs or convert them to virtual platforms. Regarding the move online, Joy has seen a good response so far. “The Virtual Teen Open Mics in particular had more engagement than I had anticipated, and the teens took a lot of pride and ownership in sharing their music over that platform.” She added that going virtual has increased the audience Main IDEA has reached: “Because it was virtual, we were even able to include teens from across the country as participants, alongside Worcester teens!” Another benefit of being online is that programs, such as those created in partnership with REC Woo!, were recorded. Joy said the Main IDEA team especially loved the Comic Portraits and Comic Expressions workshops.
In addition to creative classes and open mics, Main IDEA’s youth empowerment efforts include a Teen Arts Leadership program, in which young people will help create art classes to develop leadership skills. These opportunities were promoted in English and Spanish, as the small organization recognizes the importance of inclusivity and equity. Joy says Main IDEA was founded with the value and goal to, “empower youth in the community by providing quality, accessible arts programs for youth, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”
The pandemic isn’t the only concern people across the country are facing. Like many organizations, racial issues are at the forefront of concerns for Main IDEA, and Joy says the Main IDEA is taking an active role in moving the community forward. “Main IDEA is committed to respecting and celebrating the rich diversity of our community and to being voices that reject hate and bigotry in any form. We are committed to correcting and redeeming situations of discord and hatred that may arise within our organization into unity, respect, and celebration of diversity. We are committed to using our collective power to support and protect all of our participants and staff, as well as our community at large, and to challenge, rebuff, and resist any attacks on them based on who they are.”
The organization is tentatively planning to resume in-person programs in August, but whether online or in-person, Joy said that, “Main IDEA needs more funding in order to continue coordinating its efforts with those of other community leaders and organizations in the city, to determine best practices for its program development during Phases 1 – 4 of Massachusetts’ reopening, as well as ensure that Worcester youth have the resources necessary for continued arts programming.”
With summer 2020 marking the 10th summer Main IDEA has offered free arts programs to Worcester youth, and to celebrate they have set a fundraising goal of $10,000 in 10 weeks. Joy noted that the power of investing in the community has helped Main IDEA make strong progress toward this objective: “To date, we have raised approximately $2,000 toward our goal, and United Way of Central Massachusetts has generously offered to match all donations up to $5,000!”