About Us About


Our Mission and Values

The Mission of Arts for Learning Massachusetts is to educate, inspire, and empower the youth of Massachusetts through the arts.

We believe that the arts are an essential component of both formal education and youth development, and that creative expression opens worlds. We recognize the transformational power of the arts for social justice and healing. We are committed to providing youth of all abilities, identities, and backgrounds access to the rich educational opportunities and sense of belonging inherent in arts learning. Our programming for PreK-12 grade students in schools, libraries, community centers, museums, hospitals, shelters and adaptive learning environments:

  • brings curriculum vibrantly to life
  • strengthens learning and social skills
  • inspires imagination and develops creativity
  • promotes cultural understanding and awakens empathy
  • introduces students to powerful modes of self-expression
  • encourages students to create, risk, explore, and discover their unique potential
  • can be a tool for social change

We acknowledge the impact of colonization, systemic racism, and white supremacy on Massachusetts and the United States, and are on a learning journey to become a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural organization. Our office is located on the traditional territory of the Massa-adchu-es-et (Massachusett), Pawtucket, and Naumkeag people, and we recognize that the land we live, work and create upon has been occupied and stewarded by these and other indigenous communities long before European colonization. We support the Black Lives Matter movement, and acknowledge that the society we share was built with the stolen labor of Black people. Providing a platform for historically and currently oppressed/marginalized artists to share their art is just the beginning of our shared responsibility to build a racially just and liberated world.

We value and amplify diverse voices and actively recruit, champion, and support our roster of more than 100 performing and teaching artists and their mastery of traditional and contemporary art forms from the United States and around the world. We collaborate with artists, schools, and organizational partners to ensure our programs are equitable, inclusive, anti-racist and culturally responsive. We are committed to arts access and equity and have prioritized expansion of our Expanded Arts Access programming in our strategic plan.



AFLMA was founded in 1962, one of the first affiliates of the Young Audiences, Arts for Learning, Inc. network which was established in 1952 with a mission to inspire young people and expand their learning through the arts. Today, the network is made up of local affiliated nonprofits that collectively impact over 5 million young people each year. The national Young Audiences Arts for Learning network works collaboratively to advance arts in education through advocacy, communications, fundraising, program development, professional learning, and other support. To explore our national network, please visit: www.youngaudiences.org/YA-network-map.

Understanding of the transformational power of the arts, and in response to an enduring concern that arts were considered an ancillary enrichment opportunity, disposable during lean budgeting times, rather than an indispensable component of educating the whole child, our reach and programming expanded from presenting only classical music performances in our early years to include a full range of educational arts programming in multiple disciplines and cultures.

In 1985, Governor Michael Dukakis declared March 17-23 Young Audiences week, saying:

Young Audiences of Massachusetts renders invaluable services to our community by creating an exciting climate for learning, stimulating an interest in the arts, and generating enthusiasm for study and proficiency in the arts as well as in other curriculum areas; and these programs enhance the quality of life of young people by giving them the opportunity to experience, enjoy and become involved in the live performing arts, to learn from professional artists about the artistic process and to develop aesthetic awareness; and Young Audiences cultivates in young people an appreciation of the performing arts, and thereby generates future audiences who will continue to support the arts throughout their lives.

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In 1994, Yo-Yo Ma, world renowned cellist and Young Audiences of Massachusetts Artistic Advisor, accepted the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton at the White House on behalf of the organization. Young Audiences, Inc. was the first arts organization ever to be so honored.

In 1999, Young Audiences, in collaboration with the Federal Court Public Education Project launched The Performing Arts and the Law program. YAMA artists participated in The Arts and the Law, Discovering Justice: The James D. St Clair Court Education program monthly through 2010.

During the early 2000s, the first Expanded Arts Access programs were launched bringing adaptive arts learning experiences to those who face the greatest barriers to access and yet often have the most to gain, including students at risk, and students learning hospital schools and other adaptive needs environments. Highlights include:

  • In 2000, YAMA launched Bring Back the Music providing music instruction for Boston Public School students through 2004. This program gave rise to Making Music Matters.

  • In 2002 Young Audiences partnered with From the Top to develop an in-school residency program. The Make your own Radio Show in- school residency for 5-8th graders was launched in 2003.

  • From 2003-2008 After School Learning Through Arts Residencies engaged students at the Brighton and East Boston YMCAs

  • In 2003, the first Young Audiences/Young Artists Concert was held. The YAYA salon style series featured students and professional musicians in intimate home settings on Sunday afternoons.

  • From 2004-7, YAMA partnered with the Harvard After School Initiative (HASI), delivering 23 afterschool Custom Arts Residencies in sites in Allston, Brighton and Roxbury.
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In 2004, Healing Arts for Kids was launched bringing adaptive arts learning to youth at Franciscan Hospital’s Kennedy Day School

In 2005, Young Audiences of Massachusetts added Arts for Learning to its name following the 1999 national organization trademark, Young Audiences Arts for Learning, Inc.

In 2008, our partnership with the Gardner Pilot Academy began with Friday Arts. Today 15 AFLMA teaching artists engage students with dance, music, storytelling and theater every Friday morning. Over the years we have built pathways, a choice model, and have extended arts learning with the addition of 6 weekly early childhood music classes, a summer dance program and in 2023 an afterschool musical theater program.

In 2010, in response to the Race from Top national agenda, Expanding Horizons Through Music, an early literacy through music program was developed to close the Kindergarten preparedness gap for preschoolers experiencing houselessness and extreme poverty.

In 2010, in partnership with VSA and the Mass Hospital School in Canton (now the Pappas Rehabilitation Hospital for Children), YAMA launched Together We Can Fly, a Healing Arts Residency that united MHS and 5th graders from a local public school in weekly sessions.


In 2017, Expanded Arts Access custom residency programs incorporated Universal Design Learning principles. This deep partnership work has grown steadily over the years. Currently AFLMA teaching artists engage youth at 12 schools.

In 2019, AFLMA began our partnership with MassHousing's Tenant Assistance Program (TAP), which provides free cultural programs in community housing locations.

In 2020, AFLMA artists adapted 50 programs for live virtual delivery and created 19 videos for asynchronous learning for our school partner’s remote school learning environments.

In 2020, AFLMA staff members completed a 16-week training in anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion from the Cultural Equity Learning Community (CELC).

In 2021, AFLMA was one of 3 affiliate partners on a NEA grant YA National received that focuses on trauma informed teaching. 

In 2021, AFLMA artists and staff joined the Young Audiences network in Responsive Arts in School Education (RAISE) program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education. RAISE is intensive professional learning for our teaching artists in healing-centered, culturally responsive practices rooted in social emotional learning.

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After 60 years, we changed our name to Arts for Learning Massachusetts, Inc. Like many affiliates in the Young Audiences Arts for Learning network we are elevating Arts for Learning as it clearly communicates our work with schools, communities, and students who are actively engaged in and with the arts. While our new name closely aligns our identity with our national Young Audiences Arts for Learning network, we also want to clarify that there is another arts resource and advocacy organization in Massachusetts, Arts|Learning, which is an unaffiliated entity.