Mission and History

YAYA’s mission is to empower creative young people to become successful adults. We provide educational experiences in the arts and entrepreneurship to New Orleans-area children and youth, fostering and supporting their individual ambitions.

YAYA (Young Aspirations Young Artists, Inc.) was founded in 1988 as a creative and entrepreneurial partnership between New Orleans artist Jana Napoli and art students from Rabouin High School (International High School of New Orleans). The after-school enrichment program nurtured the creative talents of local high school students in ways that also strengthened their academic success, life skills, and professional preparedness. With a focus on found objects and repurposed materials, early YAYA Artists (The Original 8) learned to turn their creative talents into career pathways. The “YAYAs” sold artworks throughout the CBD (Central Business District) of New Orleans, then in New York and other U.S. cities, and finally internationally. In the process, the YAYA’s guild program of youth development through art became a model for emerging organizations across the country.

YAYA’s programs have expanded over the years as we continue to work with students after school in our home studio. We also position our students as artist-mentors in elementary and high schools, and at community events and centers. Through this “Urban Heroes” programming, YAYA worked with close to 3,000 students and youth in 2015.

In 2015, YAYA broadened its programming once more: We built and moved into the new YAYA ARTS CENTER, a high-quality arts campus that brings YAYA’s quarter century of successful programs into the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans.