By Tanya Silverman
Photo courtesy of Sweet Generation.
Nothing out of the oven is cuter than sweet cupcakes–especially when they’re meant to aid the young generation.
Sweet Generation, an NYC bakery, is busy transitioning from an online service into a physical location in the East Village. Founder Amy Chasan used to work as an art educator, and now channels much of the money earned from her baking to support and develop arts organizations for youth. With an Indiegogo fundraising campaign just wrapped up, Sweet Generation is now busy moving equipment, installing a new oven, wiring the lighting, and improving the plumbing so they can later paint, floor, and decorate the upcoming retail space.
Chasan graciously took some time from the installation process to answer a few questions from BTR.
BTR: I read your account of teaching art students giving them a “dramatic and profound transformation” in which nothing had worked before. Can you provide a specific account of such a transformation you’ve witnessed during a class?
Amy Chasan (AC): There are so many examples, but this one has really stuck with me over the years.
Early in my teaching career I ran an arts mentoring program to help students find safe and constructive ways to express feelings and reflect on their personal experiences. One of my students was a young girl–14 years old and pregnant with her second child by her best friend’s father. Needless to say, she was dealing with extremely complex emotions.
She was depressed, lacked self-confidence, and was totally disengaged from school and learning. Through the arts mentoring program she found safe ways to express her emotions. She channeled her anger and frustration into dozens of creative projects. Her confidence began to grow as she found ways to process her difficulties through art. Her transformation was stunning as she gained confidence, became a leader among students, and began to excel academically. It was incredibly moving to see.
BTR: Cypress Hill Local Development Corporation is going to work with Sweet Generation to provide internships for young adults. Do you think teaching students how to develop their skills through baking will have the same positive effect on youth as the arts-education organizations that you are donating to?
AC: Absolutely. In my work evaluating youth development programs for New York City I found that the most effective programs used creative, hands-on environments to teach critical life skills. The work at Sweet Generation is fun and creative, but it also teaches our teens critical skills that will help them hold jobs and enjoy their work in the future. Aside from creative tasks like decorating cupcakes and developing new flavors, our students learn about creating a great customer experience, how to talk on the phone with customers and vendors, as well as the importance of getting to work on time, dressed appropriately, communicating effectively, and maybe most important, how to be a really good team member, working collaboratively in a high energy, fast-paced environment.
BTR: Do you think you’ll teach any onsite art classes at the bakery, or just stick to donations?
AC: We will have many creative opportunities at the bakery. For example, we’ll showcase kids’ art on the bakery’s walls and give young artists the opportunity to exhibit their work. And our teen mentoring program offers creative opportunities for its participants. We also hope to host a variety of art workshops in collaboration with our nonprofit partners in the future.
BTR: Sweet Generation bakes some creative cupcake flavors like malted milkshake and lavender lemon. Do you have any other creative concoctions in store for new breeds of desserts once the bakery opens its doors?
AC: We have more ideas than we can possibly bake! We’re making super-creative custom products with our arts organization partners like themed cupcakes to complement the current performance at The Theater for A New Audience in Brooklyn. At the bakery we will introduce new flavors and new creations regularly, so stop in often to see what’s baking!