Free Arts 2015

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In A Perfect World Foundation

Grant Year: 2014–2015
Amount of Grant: $10,000.00
Purpose of Grant: Weekly Mentorship support at The Bridge for Youth to help:

  • student artIntroduce five guest artists and nine weeks of guest artist curriculum to youth at The Bridge.
  • Youth discover how their artistic talents can become their lives’ work by creating opportunities for them to learn from artists and explore arts-based professions.
  • Provide diverse artistic experiences to the youth, weekly mentors, and facility staff throughout the program year.
  • Ensure programmatic quality through regular site visits and the development of positive mentor/mentee relationships.

In the 2014 fall and 2015 spring terms, Free Arts Minnesota was once again able to provide quality arts mentorship to youth at The Bridge for Youth. In order to supplement our regular Weekly Mentorship programming, we had the additional programmatic goal of bringing guest artists into weekly sessions. By working closely with practicing community artists, resident youth were able to learn about new artistic mediums to an extent that mentors alone may not have been able to provide. Owing to the many successes of these visits at The Bridge, Free Arts hopes to expand the breadth of this programming by bringing it to additional Weekly Mentorship partner sites in the 2015–2016 programming year.

Free Arts introduced five guest artists into Weekly Mentorship at The Bridge. Each artist, working in her or his respective medium, developed curriculum focused on the idea of “Self”. Youth created a unique piece of art in each medium and were encouraged to tell their own stories through their work. The guest artists introduced included:

  • Kirk Washington Jr., an interdisciplinary artist who instructed youth in storytelling. Kirk introduced youth to various forms of literary self-expression, including fables and spoken word poetry.
  • Shannon Rahkola, a graphic designer who helped youth design “Self” logos. In her two-week session, Shannon explained how to design an eye-catching logo and helped youth create marks and symbols that represented themselves.
  • Rebecca Workman, a fashion designer who instructed youth in the creation of “Self” crests. In her two-week session, Rebecca provided the youth with a brief history of heraldry and, using recycled materials, helped them design and create heraldic patches that they could affix to their clothing.
  • student artEmily Floyd, a recycled-materials artist who created jewelry with the youth. Using scraps of leather and recycled bicycle tubes, Emily led the youth in creating personalized bracelets.
  • Katrina Knutson, a graffiti artist who instructed youth in the creation and use of stencils. In her three-week session, Katrina assisted youth in designing, cutting, and using a number of stencils that focused on self-identity and causes about which the youth were passionate.

“Art helped me so much when I was in treatment. And it helped the other kids there too. I know I’m good at art, but I’m even better at helping people. And I like helping. I want to do art therapy because then I could help other kids going through some of the same stuff I’ve been through. With my experiences, I think I could relate to them and help them deal with some of their issues in a positive way.” – Free Arts Teen Mentee

student art

CHALLENGES AND SUCCESSES

Free Arts continues to serve youth both in emergency shelter and long-term residential care. This model is beneficial to both the youth at The Bridge and to Free Arts mentors, but it did present some challenges for the multi-week guest artists. Because the youth in emergency shelter are often at The Bridge for less than a week, curriculum must allow for new youth to participate, even if they missed the previous week’s session. The guest artists handled this dilemma admirably. Those guest artists who were present for more than one week designed their respective curriculums in such a way that new youth were never left out. This aspect of shorter term guest artist residencies is exciting for us, because it means that, in spite of short-term tenures for many of the participating youth, we can successfully introduce the guest artist experience to facilities such as The Bridge. Free Arts has guest artist programming in the form of our Teaching Artist Series, but these series are cumulative six- to eight-week programs that tend to require attendance at all sessions. Such programming does not work at sites like The Bridge. We felt, however, that youth in short-term residency should still be afforded the opportunity to work with practicing artists, and this year at The Bridge demonstrated how successful such shorter term guest artist programming can be.

“I used to not like painting, because I thought I was bad at it. But look what I made! It’s awesome! I had no idea I could make something like this!” – Free Arts Teen Mentee

student artBringing guest artists into Weekly Mentorship did more than introduce youth to practicing artists. Though learning from such artists was in itself valuable to the youth at The Bridge, introducing guest artists, who planned and implemented their own curriculum, allowed mentors to more effectively focus their time on developing positive relationships with the youth. For those youth living in The Bridge’s emergency shelter housing, this time with caring adults is essential for their self-esteem and their futures, wherever those might be. Given that a number of our other partner sites also work with youth participating in short-term programs, we now have the goal to expand guest artist programming to reach the over 3,200 youth we serve each year, most of whom participate in Weekly Mentorship.

“Before Free Arts, I didn’t like art, and I didn’t think of myself as creative. … Now, if I think of an idea, I can make it—I’m an artist!” – Free Arts Teen Mentee