About Young Artists Initiative (YAI)


The mission of Young Artists Initiative (YAI) is to transform lives through theater! We do this by educating young theater artists through accessible, high quality performing arts programming offered in an inclusive community setting.

Our vision: A creative and engaged community where young people flourish – on and off the stage.

The following core values guide all YAI activities:
• Access – We increase access to high quality performing arts experiences through free classes, scholarships, and low/no cost tickets.
• Respect and acceptance – We value all young people for who they are; we embrace the understanding that there are no “cookie cutter” kids or families.
• Community – We bridge communities as we build our YAI family through volunteer involvement, performance, and celebrating the creative potential in every child.
• Learning by doing – We encourage youth to reach their greatest creative potential through collaboration with professional artists and leadership opportunities.
• Going beyond – We believe that whatever we put into a performance is what we get out of it. This commitment and passion helps youth build the skills and confidence necessary to exceed expectations in theater and in life.


As our families and actors will attest, three qualities distinguish YAI from other youth performing groups: our commitment to kids – not just the production; our commitment to excellence – not just quality; and our undying passion for what we do.  YAI brings a strong connection to the greater community of professionals and volunteers who work in youth development, as their efforts intersect or mirror our own.

In 2015, Young Artists Initiative (YAI)  was born as an independent 501(c)(3) organization and has used this status to build new supports for its mission in the community.


In 2017, YAI hired Matt Berdahl as the the organizations first ever paid YAI Artistic Director. Many artists and families started voicing they wanna keep coming back to YAI because they are impressed with YAI’s mission, artistic quality and integrity, and the organization’s commitment to kids. 


In 2020, YAI produced Frozen Jr and Matilda reaching some of it’s largest audiences and participant demographics ever before having to face it’s hardest challenge yet, the Covid-19 pandemic. With the support of generous donors and amazing community members like yourself, YAI is surviving and preparing to welcome the kids back into wonderful YAI experiences that the youth and community have grown to love. 


In 2021, with your help, YAI will celebrate another year of signature, high quality arts programming for the young people on Saint Paul’s East Side and greater Minnesota area through upcoming virtual performances and eventual in-person performances once again!

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