Young Artists at Work: Unleashing Creativity, One Apprentice at a Time!

Natalie Gray, Arts Commission’s Youth Services Manager

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

Picture this: a vibrant summer day filled with the exuberant energy of young artists, armed with paintbrushes, music notes, dance moves, and theatrical flair. Welcome to the magical world of Young Artists at Work (YAAW), where creative apprenticeships reign supreme unleashing the wildest dreams of artistic souls.

YAAW, the brainchild of creative enthusiasts, arrived on the scene in 1994, like a burst of confetti at a paint-splattering party. Since then, it has been offering teens 14-18 the chance to dive headfirst into a rainbow of artistic expressions while earning some much-needed moolah.

“Toledo’s Arts Commission includes the Young Artists At Work (YAAW) program as well as Congresswoman Kaptur’s 9th Congressional District Invitational High School Art Exhibition.” says Natalie Gray, Youth Services Manager. “We also curate arts for several Lucas County criminal justice programs.”

Imagine a canvas of possibilities, where young artists immerse themselves in a smorgasbord of creative fields. From splashing vibrant colors onto canvases to crafting murals that make hearts skip a beat, Young Artists at Work embrace it all. Whether you’re a visual virtuoso, a dancing diva, a theatrical tornado, or a music maestro, YAAW has got your back.

“It’s cool to understand at a young age that you can like your job,” explains Gray. “It’s an important foundation to work and profession when someone knows they can get paid or have a successful career doing fulfilling work they actually love.”

These apprenticeships are no ordinary gigs, my creative compatriots. Instead, they’re a gateway to unearthing your inner muse and sculpting it into tangible masterpieces. It’s like being a wizard with a paintbrush, conjuring up captivating art that can transport observers to realms unknown. It’s also a journey of self-discovery, where each creative work unravels a part of your artistic spirit.

But hold onto your berets, because YAAW doesn’t stop at just fueling artistic fires. Oh no, they sprinkle a touch of practical magic, too. Picture this: you’re brushing strokes of vibrant colors onto a canvas, and suddenly you find yourself effortlessly coordinating with fellow painters.

“Apprentices not only learn art skills, they learn job skills as well,” shares Gray. “Our artists also learn professionalism, financial literacy, and the overall continuous development of their work ethic.”

It’s like a symphony of creativity, where teamwork and collaboration take center stage. YAAW teaches you the art of time management, the dance of communication, and the problem-solving cha-cha. These are the secret ingredients that transform artistic passions into long-standing professional careers.

Now, let’s talk about the sweet cherry on top of this artistic extravaganza: the green stuff. That’s right, my friends, YAAW pays apprentices for their artistic prowess! Who said being an artist couldn’t put money in your pocket? With Young Artists at Work, you can earn some dough while you waltz through the realm of creativity. It’s like being paid to play, with your artwork becoming currency for your dreams.

“The Young Artists At Work will be selling their artwork at our Art Loop event July 22nd 2pm-6pm ,” Gray adds. “Make sure to stop by Handmade Toledo in Uptown on Adams St. between 17th and 19th Street to see the art gallery and support budding local artists.”

But it’s not just about the money, my fellow artistic adventurers. It’s also about embracing responsibility, blooming into a young professional, and forging a path to financial independence. YAAW nurtures not just young artists’ creative genius, but their work ethic too. It’s like a gentle nudge, urging creatives to spread their wings and soar to new artistic heights.

“I’ve been with the Arts Commission for five years now and it’s been a pleasure to watch someone start as a shy 14-year old and see them transform into a confident young artist prepared for the future,” says Gray.

In the world of YAAW, every day is an adventure, filled with laughter, shared moments of artistic genius, and the occasional paint mishap. Imagine the sight of a group of young artists, with smudges of color on their faces, laughing together as they bring their imagination to life. It’s a symphony of laughter and creativity, a harmonious blend of youthful energy and artistic brilliance.

“We are very grateful to have some generous funding partners in the City of Toledo and Department of Neighborhoods,” says Gray. “The University of Toledo, Parks & Recreation, Lucas County Jobs & Family Services, local banks and foundations —all of our partners truly help to make our programs dynamic in nature.”

Oh, and let’s not forget the pièce de résistance: the positive impact on Toledo’s neighborhoods and the ripple effect on the artistic landscape. YAAW alumni are the creative heroes who paint murals, compose symphonies, choreograph dances, and breathe life into the artistic fabric of their respective communities. They become the vibrant brushstrokes that transform gray walls into canvases of wonder.

“It’s been quite the honor to now see second generation alumni of Young Artists at Work supporting their children’s active involvement in our program,” shares Gray. “We also have an upcoming Alumni Art Exhibition featuring YAAW Alums art from 1994-2021.”

The upcoming Alumni Art Exhibition & Sale will be Thursday July 27 from 5-7 p.m. at the University of Toledo’s Center of Visual Arts where the Young Artists at Work art studios are currently housed.

So, my artistic comrades, brace yourself for a plethora of vibrant artwork spanning three decades and lots of fun!

If you’re an artist 14-18 years of age, consider nurturing your professional growth, by unleashing your creative potential like a whirlwind with YAAW. It’s a journey where you’ll discover the true power of your artistic voice, and where you’ll forge lifelong friendships with fellow creatives who understand the magic that flows through your fingertips and resonates in your heart.

“The 55 art apprentices we have are split up into four teams, each assigned a different project,” explains Gray.

The Lucas County Shared Services Department Building will adorn an impressive art installation from group 1 artists. This building houses the offices of the county’s Job & Family Services, Child Support Enforcement Agency, OhioMeansJobs and Planning and Development. “So many Toledoans will see these artist’s inspirational work here,” Gray says.

Group 2 and 3 artists will be painting murals on 2 buildings overlooking Chessie Circle Trail.

Strader Tire & Oil on West Sylvania Avenue is one of those buildings. Strader has been in business for a jaw-dropping 75+ years and are the visionaries behind a popular bike trail. Named for the railroad that once used the nearby corridor, the now Chessie Circle Trail Bike/Pedestrian Bridge was repurposed into a bike trail where cyclists, walkers and runners alike can enjoy exercising.

Recently the Strader Team thought, “Hey, let’s make this trail an art-lover’s dreamland!” So coming this summer, as you pedal, walk, or run your heart out, prepare to be dazzled by some seriously uplifting YAAW apprentice art along the way.

One mural will be placed on the side of Strader Tire & Oil and the other mural on the old Drum Depot Building now owned by and housing the popular Beirut Lebanese restaurant.

“It’s really neat because people on the trail will get to see 2 YAAW art projects in progress this July,” notes Gray.

It’s like a fitness adventure with a side of artistic inspiration!

Lastly, group 4 artists are working with Toledo GROWs on an art installation in honor of their dearly departed bee-keeper, Horice.

“Partnering with Toledo GROWs this summer is allowing the artists to learn about ecosystems, how honey is made and the life cycle of pollinators,” says Gray.

Community gardens are like magical portals that sprinkle goodness into our lives. Toledo GROW,  housed on three acres of farmland, serves as home base for services provided to 130+ community gardens throughout Toledo and surrounding areas.

While creating, YAAW artists will also learn the importance of abandoned spaces being transformed into vibrant gardens where folks from all walks of life gather, dig in the dirt, and make lasting connections.

Gardens, like art, bring us back to our roots, reminding us of the beauty of nature and life. Plus, gardens offer us delicious and budget-friendly food that nourishes both our bodies and souls.

“It’s exciting for our artists to collaborate and create beauty in the very same green spaces that help our local communities thrive,” says Gray.

But it’s not just about creating masterpieces; it’s about the stories behind them. YAAW is a gateway to self-expression, where art becomes a reflection of our unique experiences and perspectives. It’s a chance to tell our stories in vivid hues. Each stroke, each step, each project is an opportunity to leave a lasting impression, while connecting with people on profound levels and evoking emotions that transcend words.

And let’s not forget the magical mentors who guide these young artists along their creative odyssey. They are the sages of artistic wisdom, the guiding stars that ignite the spark within. “Every summer I hire a skilled group of educators for the apprentices,” Natalie explains.

With their tutelage, young creatives refine their techniques, push their boundaries, and learn to embrace the unexpected twists and turns of the artistic journey.

Every summer, a fresh group of hand-selected educators share their own tales of triumphs and failures, reminding the artists that mistakes are simply brushstrokes in the masterpiece of their artistic evolution.

But amid the laughter, camaraderie, and artistic brilliance, there’s an unspoken truth that echoes through the halls of YAAW: art has the power to change lives. Creators fueled by passion and nurtured by the Young Artists at Work program, have the potential to touch hearts, provoke thought, and inspire generations to come. Thank you for being beacons of light, illuminating Toledo with artistic talent and for leaving an indelible mark on the creative tapestry of humanity.

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