CMU’s Arts Greenhouse uses hip hop to grow confidence and social awareness in high school students | Local Beat | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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CMU’s Arts Greenhouse uses hip hop to grow confidence and social awareness in high school students

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Located on the first floor of the College of Fine Arts building on Carnegie Mellon’s campus is the Arts Greenhouse, a socially-driven music program for high school students whose goal is to teach young people the art of hip-hop production. Led by program coordinator Paul Crocker, the Arts Greenhouse sets up a four-hour workshop every weekend. Adding support are CMU professors Tomé Cousin, from the drama department, and the English department’s Jane McCafferty. 

Students completing the program receive a certificate of achievement from CMU. Funding is provided by private donations as well as local foundations: The Pittsburgh Foundation, Sprout Fund and American Eagle are among those providing support. 

Crocker believes that part of the success of the program comes from the power of music generally and the inherent social awareness of hip hop specifically. 

“Most kids look up to musicians,” Crocker asserts, “[and] hip hop is becoming one of the most popular genres of music among young people of all racial and economic backgrounds.” He adds that with the recent increase in awareness of racial inequality, the program’s mission becomes even more relevant. “The political awareness these kids have for their age is really amazing,” Crocker says, “and [Arts Greenhouse] gives them a platform and a way to express a lot of their frustrations with government or school, or the view that they may be undervalued by society.”  

This Saturday, Arts Greenhouse hosts a spoken-word performance event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Then, prospective students are encouraged to show up on Jan. 30 for the first Saturday workshop of the year. 

Crocker sees the Arts Greenhouse evolving into more than just a creative space. Eventually students will be expected to engage in community service to complement their instruction. 

“We want to work with the city,” Crocker says, “and help build a more socially and economically integrated community. That’s our goal and mission.”


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