(This is a guest post by Dr. Joiselle Cunningham, a senior advisor at HERE to HERE, CEO of Pathways to Creative Industries and lecturer at NYU. She previously led in the Obama Administration and received her doctorate from Harvard University. )
“I really love fashion and musical theater,” one student we’ll call Amy shared with me. Amy works in a fashion retail company on evenings and weekends while pursuing a criminology degree in New York City. Her parents immigrated to the Bronx over 20 years ago and like many students, Amy has diverse passions in creative fields. She has struggled to pursue these passions, however. In fact, Amy shared that she has found more support for her success in liberal arts, particularly her interests in psychology and criminal justice. “I never knew that I could even try to get into these areas. I know New York is the place to be, but I just didn’t know where to start.”
For students like Amy, Pathways to Creative Industries works with designers, educators, business leaders, fashion, music, & tech executives, to create greater access and opportunities in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) fields. Although students say they are interested in creative careers, there are often many barriers to gaining access to fashion, music and design. Pathways to Creative Industries recently launched AvancebyPCI.com, a fashion brand to support youth interested in creative careers and held a launch event on November 11, 2019 in partnership with DreamYard and HERE to HERE, two Bronx-based nonprofits.
Students joined Tonne Goodman from Vogue, B. Michael of b michael America, Crystal Slattery, President of Tanya Taylor, and dozens of other fashion and design leaders in New York City. Students were also joined by leaders in banking, tech, higher ed and nonprofits.
During the fashion panel discussion, our students pointed out the complexities of the very problem that we are working to solve. During the event, one student asked, “Why don’t more New York City high schools offer opportunities in the arts if there is clear data to suggest that it will benefit students?” Another asked why fashion leaders don’t open their doors to young people if there is a persistent diversity problem within the industry.
Our students are absolutely right in asking these questions. A study by the Center for Arts Education found that schools with the highest graduation rates offered the most resources related to arts education compared to students at schools with the lowest graduation rates which have the least access to these resources. The United States Census Bureau reports that Black workers are underrepresented in all of the creative industries, particularly fashion, creative goods and products, and architecture and related services. New York City high schools with a creative industry focus have higher graduation rates and slightly higher postsecondary enrollment rates than schools citywide. In spite of this, not all schools offer programming in the arts, including design, fashion and music.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary in creative industries is over $36,000 higher than New York City’s average salary and much higher than average salaries in creative industries in the rest of the country. However the reality is that most students in New York City aren’t given the resources, education and networks to dream about these opportunities. Pathways to Creative Industries and now AvancebyPCI provides strategic and programmatic support for initiatives that connect young people to academic and career success in creative fields. During our recent event, Amy was particularly in awe of B. Michael and Tonne Goodman from Vogue, as well as professors from Parsons. “I’m really excited that I get to learn more about fashion from these greats,” Amy shared after the recent launch event. “I feel so inspired by b. michael and Tonne…I also think I found a mentor.”