If a 16th birthday can be considered the threshold between adolescence and adulthood, between the formative years and emerging maturity, then the MAPS Media Institute, as it prepares for its 16th year of operation, is coming of age in a big way.
The mission of MAPS is to empower, inspire and prepare Montana’s next generation for future success through professional media arts instruction, engaged community service and compassionate mentoring.
“Montana’s students have powerful stories to share. At its core, MAPS teaches communication skills to help students express themselves more articulately and effectively,” says Executive Director Clare Ann Harff. “MAPS does this by providing intensive, free-of-charge after school media-arts classes for 8th to 12th-grade students”. Given the proficiency with which MAPS has gone about executing that mission, it’s no surprise that the organization is experiencing a significant growth year.
MAPS, founded in 2004 in the Bitterroot Valley, is a nonprofit media arts organization that offers free-of-charge classes in filmmaking, graphic design, music production and new technologies to eighth-12th grade students. It also integrates community service, entrepreneurship and future skills building for college and career readiness. In addition to the Ravalli County program, MAPS also facilitates workshops on several rural and Reservation locales, including on the Flathead, Blackfeet, and Fort Belknap Reservations. In 2017 MAPS was honored with a National Arts and Humanities Youth Programs (NAHYP) award as one of the top twelve youth development programs in the country.
For the past few years, MAPS has been intentionally expanding its geographic reach across Montana, according to Harff. “For example, we offer a 16 wk after school film class each spring to students on the Flathead Reservation and Lake County. And the MAPS Media Lab, our statewide program, facilitates media arts workshops across Montana.
2019 marks MAPS’ 16th year of serving Bitterroot students, but it also marks the launch of MAPS — Lewis and Clark County, a year-round afterschool and summer media arts program for students in the Helena area. MAPS applied for, and received, a five-year, United States Department of Education 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, which specifically funds afterschool and summer programs and is managed by the Montana Office of Public Instruction. This is the third time the MAPS received this federal grant. Half of the grant funds will contribute to running MAPS — Ravalli County and half the funds will assist in launching MAPS — Lewis and Clark County, where MAPS will find a new home with some old friends at the Holter Museum of Art.
Through partnerships with the Holter Museum of Art and the Mryna Loy Theater, and with funding from the Greater Montana Foundation, MAPS offered several filmmaking workshops in the Helena area the past few years with intense student engagement. One of the films, “Art for Survival,” won a High School Production Award, equivalent to a student Emmy, from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, NW Chapter. It was the success of these workshops that inspired MAPS to raise funds to establish a year-round MAPS program in the Helena area.
“We are driven by two primary goals,” Harff said. “The first is to provide intensive, professional instruction in media arts for eighth to 12th graders across Montana. The second is to offer that instruction at no cost to the students. The 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, in addition to the generous support of other private foundations and donors, helps us make that happen.”
For eighth to 12th grade students in Ravalli County, that means continued access to professional instruction at no charge. MAPS is hosting its annual Community Open House on Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 4:40 - 6:30 p.m. at 515 Madison, in Hamilton. Everyone is welcome to tour the studios, meet staff and students, and learn more about MAPS programming in Ravalli County and statewide.
MAPS after school media arts classes begin on Sept. 23. Filmmaking and technology classes will run on Mondays and Tuesdays from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m., while design and music classes are scheduled for the same time on Wednesdays and Thursdays. The 32-week courses are broken down into four eight-week segments, and students have the flexibility to accommodate other after-school activities as needed. Students can enroll at any time throughout the school year.
“MAPS is powered by many engines: students, families, schools, individual donors, corporate sponsors, private foundations and the communities we serve. But it’s also powered by the belief that investing in Montana’s youth is key to a successful future for all of us,”.Harff concluded. “As MAPS is welcomed into other communities across Montana, we are always proud to share that MAPS was born in the Bitterroot.”
Online registration is available at mapsmediainstitute.com, and more information can be found on the website, or by calling 406-381-7230.