A local program prepares kids for the future while cultivating their artistic abilities. Young Artists at Work (YAAW), offered through The Arts Commission, inspires young artists to make a greater commitment to creativity and to their community, which has a lasting effect as they grow up. Since the program’s inception in 1994, YAAW offers paid summer apprenticeships to area teenagers, allowing them to tap into their creative side and to learn valuable skills to connect to the community through their art.
Natalie Gray has been with The Arts Commission for four years. She attended Toledo School for the Arts which she says fostered her appreciation for the arts.[/caption]
“Our young people need to be invested in, and their creativity and confidence need to be nurtured. YAAW is a place where they can blossom and safely be themselves,” says Natalie Gray, Youth Services Manager at The Arts Commission. “To see someone start out with us and then watch them mature and grow is amazing,” she adds.
“I grew throughout the program as a person and a young artist,” explains Ren Steedley, former apprentice at YAAW. “After the program, I am much more comfortable approaching and striking up a conversation to my peers or strangers,” he adds.
A Summer Filled with Valuable Experiences
Summer apprenticeships are six weeks long and usually begin the last week of June and run until the first week of August at the Center for the Visual Arts on the campus of the University of Toledo. During that time, apprentices will spend time working on art projects both individually, and in teams, under the direction of professional artists, art educators and instructors.
“Each team will be working collaboratively with each other on a community-focused project such as murals or videos,” says Gray. Toward the end of the program, the teens can feature their artwork in an art show for the public to purchase.
The mural on 10th St,. facing south, incorporates themes of unity and collaboration. This project was led by former apprentices Jeshua Shuster and Shoshanna Lavetter-Keidan.
Some of the artwork sprinkled throughout Toledo includes the United Way Mural, led by former apprentices Jeshua Shuster and Shoshanna Lavetter-Keidan, which beautifies the south wall of the United Way building on Madison Avenue. You can also discover the Market Street Mural on the outside of the Libbey Glass Factory Outlet on South Erie St. With the help of apprentices, teachers Amanda Gargac and Nick Felaris, completed the mural in just a few weeks.
YAAW is open to all teenagers ages 14-18 who will earn minimum wage while committing to 30 hours each week on a 9am–4pm schedule. During an average summer, the program enrolls 45 apprentices. Over the past couple of years, the program has seen 60-70 apprentices thanks to a $6 million grant from the City of Toledo’s American Relief Plan dollars.
“This is a fun job where you get to make new friends and as our youth grow up, it’s important for them to surround themselves with people who (are committed and who) care about something,” says Gray.
How to Get Involved
Apprentices can re-apply for the program each summer until they reach their 19th birthday. After aging out, some participants have gone on to become professional artists or pursue other careers, while some have come back as alumni to continue to work and help with the program.
An application, cover letter, resume and three samples of personal artwork, followed by an interview, are all requirements for admission into the program. Applications for the 2023 program are now open. New applicants who are interested can find the application online here and returning applicants can find the application here. All apprenticeship applications are due March 17, 2023.
If you’d like to learn more about the program, you can view the 2022 recap video here.
The Mural, located at 201 S. Erie St, Toledo, OH 43604, near the Toledo Farmers’ Market, was curated by YAAW alumni teaching staff Amanda Gargac and Nick Felaris, along with help from a team of apprentices.
The mural on 10th St,. facing south, incorporates themes of unity and collaboration. Led by former apprentices, Jeshua Shuster and Shoshanna Lavetter-Keidan.
Natalie Gray has been with The Arts Commission for four years. She attended Toledo School for the Arts, which she says fostered her appreciation for the arts.