Tuesday, Oct 16, 2018
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Youth artists draw cuts, splinters, experience from summer work

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    Young Artist At Work paint a mural in the Ottawa Ice Skating rink in Ottawa Park in Toledo on July 27.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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    Mikaya Gregory, 14, of Toledo, paints a butterfly during the Young Artists At Work apprenticeship program in at the University of Toledo Center for Visual Arts in Toledo on July 26.

    The Blade/Kurt Steiss
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    Jeffrey Groff, 22, of Bowling Green, paints a mural with Young Artist At Work in the Ottawa Ice Skating rink in Ottawa Park in Toledo on July 27.

    The Blade/Jetta Fraser
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High schoolers Taihlyr Warren and Jada Russell learned a lot when they conceived, built, and painted a mural for the lobby of Lucas County Job & Family Services as part of the Young Artists At Work program last summer.

But it wasn’t without both physical and emotional pain.

VIDEO: Roberta Gedert meets with students in the Young Artists At Work program

“With the jigsaw, we got a lot of cuts, we got a lot of splinters,” said Miss Warren, 17, now a senior at Bowsher High School. “A lot of tears went into this too, because it was very frustrating; we had the mural, and we had to redo it a few times, and [there was] the frustration of being kind of young and not knowing what to do, so it was very emotional.”

Miss Warren and Miss Russell, a junior at Clay High School, were two of 42 students this year between the ages of 14 and 18 who were chosen to be a part of the program through the Arts Commission of Greater Toledo.

YAAW, started in 1994, is an apprenticeship program that employs high school students as working artists for six weeks during the summer. The project encourages creation and self-expression through large-scale projects the apprentices are tasked with completing from beginning to end over that period. The students also work on their own smaller-scale projects, which are sold during a public event.

The apprentices’ three projects completed this year were highlighted Monday at a news conference: The project Miss Warren and Miss Russell were a part of — an interior wooden mural for a wall in the JFS lobby; a 40-foot mural on the back side of the pool building at Wilson Park in North Toledo; and sculptural, mural, and photographic pieces created for family members waiting in the public lobby spaces and common spaces at JFS and the Child Support Enforcement Agency.

Miss Warren described the JFS mural as bringing together both old Toledo and new Toledo, with abstract visuals of the Anthony Wayne Bridge and the newer Veterans’ Glass City Skyway bridge acting as bookends to the Maumee River, where young and old unite.

“[The river] divides Toledo, but it also brings us together,” she said.

The mural at Wilson Park joins others created there over the last several years as part of activist Lorna Gonsalves’ Creative Peaceful Resistance program, which encourages the creative process over violence. It incorporates peaceful blues, greens, and purples to depict silhouettes in unity.

The operating budget for the 2017 program was about $150,000, which was supported with $53,880 from a contract with Lucas County Job & Family Services, $19,000 from a Community Development Block Grant through Toledo’s Department of Neighborhoods, $10,488 from an Ohio Arts Council Arts Partnership Grant, and additional support from foundations and other individual and corporate donors.

Including staff costs, supplies, and overhead, it takes about $3,000 to employ one apprentice, said Michelle Carlson, programs coordinator for the Arts Commission.

Youths can already apply for the 2018 program, which runs June 25-Aug. 3, 2018. The deadline to apply is March 23.

Jason Sanderson, an art teacher at Bedford High School who served as coordinator of this year’s program, said the apprentices learned more than the mechanics of putting together a community art project.

“Those apprentices learned about financial literacy. They learned about how to present themselves as artists. It was all hard work, but I think that the group that leaves YAAW is particularly suited to knowing exactly what their life can hold for them moving forward if they want to pursue something in the visual arts,” Mr. Sanderson said.

For more information, or to apply, go to theartscommission.org/youth.

Contact Roberta Gedert at rgedert@theblade.com, 419-724-6075, or on Twitter @RoGedert.

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