Young Aspirations/ Young Artists

The making of one of the nation's most successful youth arts programs.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
56 mins
Remote video URL


One of the most successful arts programs for teenagers in the country thrives in a downtown neighborhood. Young Aspirations/Young Artists (Ya/Ya, Inc.) continues to offer life-changing opportunities and lessons in entrepreneurship to artistically-talented young New Orleanians. This film is the story of how Ya/Ya, Inc. was founded and shows how, given the right tools and a fertile environment, motivated young people can do extraordinary things.

Featured review

As a model for empowering at-risk youth through art, Young Aspirations/Young Artists is impressive indeed. All that's really required is a little time and caring...highly recommended.
Video Librarian
Video Librarian


The young artists of YA/YA paint true stories about their own lives, and create murals, fine art pieces, poetry and rap music that speak out on racism and reflect on community values. Ya/Ya, Inc. teaches these kids the chance to the chance to apprentice with professional artists, create public artworks, design merchandise, serve as cultural ambassadors, work as project managers, and mentor others in the arts. Ultimately, these kids learn to be professionally self-sufficient through creative self-expression. A powerful case for what happens when a great teacher empowers young people to find their own voices and shows them that they are indeed part of a larger world. DVD contains both the 56 minute PBS version and the 32 minute educational version.


Ages 15 - adult. New Orleans artist Jana Napoli invited students from a nearby vocational school to work in her studio. As she elicited their experiences, the energetic teacher instilled a sense of pride in the young people. Not only are their pieces unique, but the creations garner money and international acclaim as well. These motivated teens also go out into their neighborhoods and work with the elementary graders to paint murals of their dreams, becoming role models in the process. This nicely edited combination of artwork, interviews, and location footage offers inspiration to others. [BKL F 15 93]
Nancy McCray
YA/YA is Good/Good It's not so much about furniture as about lives. This locally-produced documentary mixes dreams and facts. It's about Young Aspirations/Young Artists, better known as YA/YA, the organization that draws together New Orleans high school students and shows them how to create a future. YA/YA became a big deal, with the bright and innovative painting styles getting international art shows an color pages from Life magazine. This is made with loving care - the same quality that distinguishes YA/YA furniture and fabric - by producer-director-editor Shirley Thompson, working with writer Robin McCall. We can't shake the suggestion of one of the participants: "There needs to be a YA/YA in every block.
Benjamin Morrison
Times Picayune
This documentary clearly and dramatically shows what can be accomplished by gifted, dedicated teachers, working in ways that help fire young minds.
Joseph Henderson
M.D., Community & Family Medicine, Dartmouth College

Awards and Screenings

Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival
Emmy Award
Broadcast on PBS

Features and Languages

Film Features

  • DVD Extras

Film/Audio Languages

  • English

Promotional Material

Promotional Stills

Opens in new window