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Youth Makes ARTSCooL

By Titus Falodun Staff Writer | 8/2/2013, 9 a.m.
ARTSCooL visual arts participants (L-R): Leslie Glanville, Christopher Patterson, Tajah Thomas (Photo by Norrene Chika John/ARTSCooL).

Getting paid to do what you love is the dream. And some fortunate Atlanta-area teenagers experienced the dream this summer.

ARTSCooL is an arts employment program for teens, which provides art instruction, exposure to cultural events and venues, and practical employment training. President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities has recognized the program as one of 50 exceptional programs in the nation.

“It teaches [teens] not only how to tackle art, but other things in life,” said Camille Love, who is the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs director and oversees the ARTSCooL program (in partnership with the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency).

For eight challenging and liberating weeks, AWDA compensated the ARTSCooL participants for their commitment to the program, which culminated in the teens showcasing their work in professional style exhibitions and performances last weekend.

“It’s a lot better than math camp,” 17-year-old Leslie Glanville said. “It was never really hard to get myself out of bed and come to work, because I always ended up doing something that I really enjoyed, which is drawing for most of the day and getting paid for it.”

But before the compensation, teens must first apply and audition to garner entry into ARTSCooL. From there, trained and accomplished professionals assist them in honing their skills in their respective disciplines, which include visual, performing, and digital arts.

“It’s really incredible to see the students performing really difficult steps that would usually take someone years to master,” Angela Harris, executive artistic director at Dance Canvas, said.

Harris was performing with The Georgia Ballet in 2007 when she was invited to create a dance program for ARTSCooL. And she, along with other professionals, enriches the teens’ artistic foundation by teaching them the history behind the discipline, in addition to developing techniques.

Furthermore, this pivotal foundation helps turn dreams into reality, by allowing the teens to witness their growth as artists and the possibilities of becoming successful professionals.

“Anyone can draw, but a lot of people don’t really have confidence,” 17-year-old ARTSCooL participant Christopher Patterson said. “There were plenty of kids here that told the teachers that they couldn’t really draw. And then after eight weeks, they’ve been drawing pretty well.”

Since 1996, ARTSCooL has changed its disciplines, location, and participants.

Despite it all, the program remains true to its name.

“Coming to the students with the opportunity to be artfully minded, being able to be self-expressive, and those general principles that make us all better humans are really the most important thing that ARTSCooL offers,” Clark Atlanta University associate professor of Mass Media Arts, Herbert L. Eichelberger, said.

Starting 2014, the Office of Recreation will oversee ARTSCooL.

To get involved with the program, direct inquiries to Jessica Gaines, Arts in Education project supervisor for the Office of Cultural Affairs, at jbgaines@atlantaga.gov or (404) 546-6792.