ArtsBridge is a multi-year college preparatory program engaging Poughkeepsie youth in the arts to provide them with training, support, and mentorship to help them succeed in higher education. ArtsBridge establishes a pathway for students to higher education through the arts. Youth ages 14-19 gain advanced artistic preparatory and portfolio development skills through the Art Institute as well as college readiness training, and emotional support through individual mentorship with a focus being on college scholarships and matriculation.

ArtsBridge runs two semesters per year where students meet in their cohorts weekly, get one-on-one mentoring, and also attend one Art Institute class of their choice on full scholarship. ArtsBridge often invites guest artists, site visits to local colleges, and more, exposing youth to a variety of college majors and career fields.

Click here to learn more about The Art Institute.

ArtsBridge is a unique program that establishes a pathway for students who may not typically consider college to begin thinking about higher education. Students are mentored on the college selection process, looking for financial and merit-based scholarships, how to write the right personal essay, negotiating financial offers from schools, and SAT prep.

To apply for ArtsBridge, email and schedule an interview!


Arts Bridge was first established in 2019 with a small group of youth as a pilot program and has continued to develop to support youth entering and succeeding in college. Arts Bridge was inspired by Poughkeepsie youth and created as a unique way to sponsor young aspiring artists through The Art Institute. Through the development of the pilot program, student feedback, and youth needs, Arts Bridge has morphed into an exciting program that helps youth gain advanced art skills, alongside life skills and social emotional support that help them succeed in college.

In the last four years:

  • 100% of students complete at least 10 portfolio-worthy works of art. Types of projects ranged from self portraiture to observational work to personal interest projects.
  • 100% of ArtsBridge participants graduate from high school.
  • 100% of those who apply for college will enter a 2- or 4-year institution and receive a college scholarship.

“Arts Bridge really helped me build up my portfolio for college and understand what colleges will best fit me”  
-Katia Estrada              

“I think The Art Effect is really helpful and really teaches a lot of skills, not just from art but also from daily life.”
-Ashley Santos-Perez

ArtsBridge is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, monies received from the New York State Council on the Arts, and from Adams Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee supporting The Art Effect’s exemplary programs.

National Art Honor Society

The Art Effect’s National Art Honor Society (NAHS) Chapter #2242 recognizes 9th-12th grade students of high academic and artistic standing throughout the Hudson Valley. This is the only chapter in the United States not affiliated with a high school. The NAHS encourages students to reach their highest level of professionalism and prepares students for a career in the arts. Members serve their community by designing and painting public murals, raising money for scholarships and local organizations, creating public art projects, participating in community art events, and helping set up student exhibits. 


Members are selected each semester from nominated high school students at The Art Effect who meet the requirements of excellence in visual and media art, a minimum of an 87 weighted GPA, and attendance in courses within the Art Institute, Spark Studios, and/or MADLab programs. NAHS members are seen as leaders in their field and often receive priority treatment when applying to college. Membership opens up opportunities for college scholarships from numerous institutions as well as from the NAEA (National Art Education Association) that are not typically available to other students.

There are approximately 18-25 members each semester from high schools throughout the Hudson Valley including: Arlington, Dutchess Day School, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Haldane, The Harvey School, John Jay, Millbrook, Newburgh, New Paltz, New Rochelle, Oakwood Friends School, Our Lady of Lourdes, Poughkeepsie, Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Rondout Valley, Roy C. Ketcham, Stissing Mountain, Wallkill, and Warwick Valley.

NAHS members upon graduation have received thousands of dollars in scholarships to attend college. More than six of our graduates have received the $60,000 NAEA scholarship towards high-end art colleges and universities such as Pratt Institute. In the last two year, NAHS members have been offered more than $1,000,000 in scholarships to schools including MICA, Tufts, SVA, Harvard and BU.

NAHS meets every 2 weeks following the school year schedule.


Started by the National Art Education Association (NAEA) in 1978, the National Art Honor Society (NAHS) inspires and recognizes 9th-12th grade students who have shown an outstanding ability in art and academics. The Art Effect’s NAHS chapter #2242 was started in 2003 under Mill Street Loft and has proudly served over 300 individual young artists.

Over the years, members have worked with numerous community organizations and throughout the City of Poughkeepsie to make a difference through the arts. Some past projects include:

Program Manager

In addition to being the Director of Programs, Mary Ellen Iatropoulos is also an active teacher at The Art Effect and coordinates its #2242 NAHS chapter. Since 2007, Mary Ellen has been one of The Art Effect’s lead teaching artists in radio production, film, photography and zine-making/writing, teaching classes for schools, libraries, and partner organizations across the Hudson Valley. She was the media arts instructor at Poughkeepsie Day School’s middle school from 2011-2017, teaching courses in film, photography, digital media, and YouTube for middle school students. She loves helping students produce meaningful and often award-winning content, including the award-winning student film Santa Woman which was selected by the Tribeca Film Festival’s “The America I Am” competition.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and is partially funded by monies received from the New York State Council on the Arts.

Art Institute

The Art Institute inspires and motivates students, preparing them for successful careers and acquiring merit-based scholarships to the nation’s best art schools in the visual and media arts. Art Institute is a year-round, intensive, pre-college portfolio development program for motivated teens ages 14-19. Graduates generate an impressive portfolio of original work that demonstrates their pre-professional skills in the visual and media arts. 

See current and upcoming courses HERE.

painting class at the Art Institute

Courses and Skills

Art Institute classes take place after school, on weekends, and in the summer on a trimester schedule. Classes are taught by professional artists/educators with a curriculum that surpasses the New York State Standards of Art Education. The student-centered, holistic program prioritizes personal and professional development through rigorous arts instruction, regular critiques, mentorship, public exhibition, and engagement with college and conservatory programs.

The program creates a firm foundation in the visual and media arts by training students in developing ideas through the creative process toward the completion of a portfolio of original work. Students leave The Art Institute with a core understanding of skills including:

  • Core techniques and skills within their focused medium(s)
  • The processes of artmaking (concept to finished product)
  • Ability to create original work independently and professionally
  • Color theory, composition, perspective, depth
  • Artistic vocabulary to professionally speak about artwork & processes
  • Portraying personal experiences, emotion, thoughts in their artwork narratives
  • Giving and receiving constructive critique/feedback
  • Gaining confidence in themselves, their artwork, & their futures
  • Exhibition experience
  • Making connections to art in the world around them

Teachers use a rubric based on the National Art Standards and customize their approach as they help students understand their strengths and weaknesses and learn how to critique their own and other students’ work. Throughout the year, students may also participate in international study trips, field trips to artists’ studios, college visits and portfolio reviews, and summer intensives. 

The Art Institute also offers local youth opportunities to build collegial and community service connections. Students participate in the Art Institute’s National Art Honor Society; attend the Hudson Valley Regional Portfolio Day to meet with college representatives; host, curate, and display their work in public exhibitions; and participate in national art competitions.

award winning painting

Scholarships and Awards

The Art Institute began as part of The Art Effect’s pre-merger organization, Mill Street Loft, in 1997 with the goal of helping motivated, talented high school students interested in pursuing careers in the visual arts build skills and develop portfolios. The Institute provides one-on-one mentoring to support students’ college applications, including a long history of success in helping Art Institute students secure merit-based scholarships to art schools and colleges. Our students have been awarded over $56 million in scholarships to the nation’s finest art schools across the nation including Maryland Institute College of Art, Pratt Institute, School of Visual Arts, Columbus College of Art and Design, FIT, Rhode Island School of Design, Purchase College, Rochester Institute of Technology, SCAD, and Maine College of Art and Design.

In 2020, nearly $18,000 in financial assistance scholarships to The Art Institute courses were awarded to low-income students through scholarship funding including the Carole and Ted Wolf Scholarship Fund and other generous funders. Poughkeepsie youth who receive scholarships also participate in ArtsBridge, providing them with training, support, and mentorship to help them succeed in higher education, navigating acceptance and maximizing scholarship, and financial aid offers. 
Additionally, The Art Institute sponsors student applications to the Scholastic Art Awards, YoungArts Competition, and the Congressional Art Competition. Since 2019, more than 200 gold, silver, and honorable mention keys have been awarded to students at The Art Effect from Scholastic’s Hudson Valley Art Awards. In 2020, students Anneke Chan and Alyssa Palerma both received competitive grand prize awards from their Congressional district.

The Art Institute is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and is partially funded by monies received from the New York State Council on the Arts, The Dyson Foundation, the Leslie C. and Irene G. Roe Fund of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley and other supporters.