Artwork by teenage interns filled the walls of the ArtWorks for Milwaukee gallery at a recent exhibition open to the public.
ArtWorks for Milwaukee provides paid internships to high school students involved in the arts. The internship prepares teens to enter the workplace by developing their creativity as well as professional skills.
“The actual foundation of what we are teaching during these art projects are job skills,” said Vanessa LaCoste, board president of ArtWorks.
“They’ll learn the importance of showing up on time for a job, understanding what constructive criticism is, (what it’s like to) go through a performance evaluation, working as a team and all the soft employability skills that they would need for any job so that when the transition out of high school they’re able to go on and successfully contribute to our community,” she continued.
Spring 2012 interns were separated into two groups: “safe message” interns and “positive influence” interns. Safe message interns created communicate messages against crime and violence through graphic design. Positive influence interns created mixed media projects about people in their neighborhood who are good role models.
Each group works on an eight-week community arts project. When the eight weeks are complete they present their work at gallery night and receive a certificate of recognition.
“When I first got here I felt like I didn’t know a lot or I didn’t know how to handle myself in the workplace and they taught us a lot of that, like how to be more professional, how to do interviews, what to do in the work place and what not to do and how to communicate in the workplace,” said intern Gregory Evans.
“It just made my work ethic better,” he added.
ArtWorks has been serving teens for 10 years. According to LaCoste, about 160 teens apply online and only 24 get interviewed.
“We really are looking for teens that have an employment barrier,” LaCoste said.
She explained that an employment barrier might be a disability or the student may have a GPA lower than 2.0 and is on the verge of dropping out.
ArtWorks board member Carrie Grulke, said that by learning professional and life skills, interns gain confidence.
“They get to feel good about themselves, they have an outlet, they take some ownership in what they’re doing and the projects that they’re doing.”
The students agreed.
“I feel like I can get along with people better,” said intern Santina Ward. “I can work with people my age and people different from me. I can communicate and collaborate a lot better and I think I’m ready for real work.”