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Five people stand behind a table surrounded by NewBridge-branded materials

Creating Connections with NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology

From sister to sister, NewBridge Cleveland has created a successful connection to arts-based learning and future careers for Tristan Bankhead’s family.

Enrolling at NewBridge in the ninth grade because her older sister was previously involved, Bankhead, now 19, is a Cleveland resident who attended the NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology.

NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology students at an art exhibition

Originally signing up for a variety of classes, Bankhead found a passion in ceramics. She created mugs, bowls, and vessels throughout the school year and during summer vacations before graduating high school.

“It helped me be more patient with people,” Bankhead said about her time spent enrolled at the community-based arts and career training center.

Founded in 2009, NewBridge provides Cleveland’s most disadvantaged communities with access to creative learning.  Its youth programs serve the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, offering free, arts-based education targeting at-risk high school students.

“NewBridge is based on the idea of providing people with a path where one didn’t exist before,” said Stephen Langel, NewBridge’s development director.

Using an approach popularized by Bill Strickland and the Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, NewBridge uses arts-based learning to cultivate a variety of skills that lift people up through the arts.

“The gap that existed, that this program fills, is leadership and emotional development, employability skills, and the sort of thing that students need to be successful in the long run, and using art to do so,” Langel said. “We go into schools and recruit specifically … kids who (teachers and school administrators) think are sort of at a tipping point where the arts would make that much of a difference, those who they think are most in need and can benefit.”

NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology is one of 10 replication sites of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation. The center aims to remedy the economic cycle of poverty and education, Langel said, adding that programming is provided free of charge for the students.

“In almost all cases, our students wouldn’t be able to take advantage of these programs if they weren’t free,” he said. “Our students don’t pay any costs and the funding we get from the Ohio Arts Council and other institutions is used to offset a variety of things.”

In FY 2017, the center received an Arts Partnership grant from the Ohio Arts Council. The $16,377 in funding was used to hire professional teaching artists, as well as to provide art materials and other equipment.

NewBridge’s goal is to bridge the gap between adversity and success through helping students discover self-worth, self-sufficiency, and self-esteem and using the arts to target those skills.

 “With our specific program, the idea is that you have students who learn the kind of skills necessary to become leaders in their communities,” Langel said.

NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology studentsAccording to the NewBridge website, 99 percent of youth who attend the Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology graduate high school. The center has an 82 percent college acceptance rate, and 93 percent of individuals who take part in the center’s adult healthcare programming have achieved job placement within six months of graduating.

For Bankhead, NewBridge provided the background she needed to begin a career in the healthcare industry.

Bankhead said she has been able to take the leadership and other skills gained through the program and apply them to her path pursuing phlebotomy. And, although she found her calling in a field outside of the art world, Bankhead said she still takes time to make ceramics and volunteer at NewBridge.

Now, NewBridge’s influence is impacting new generations, as Bankhead’s two younger sisters are currently enrolled in the youth program.

Looking back at her experience at NewBridge, Bankhead can’t deny the impact it had beyond the walls of the classroom.

“NewBridge connected me with a path,” she said.

For more information about NewBridge, visit

To learn more about the Ohio Arts Council’s Arts Learning programs, visit

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18  Social Media and Events Fellow
Photos courtesy of NewBridge Cleveland Center for Arts and Technology

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