Domonique Whitehurst, a high school student with a passion for art, began his internship with ArtWorks for Milwaukee in fall 2011. As one of eight interns, he produced anti-drug and anti-violence campaigns while developing his skills and creativity.
“What I find most rewarding about this program was meeting the people and being able to express yourself properly and send a safe message to others,” Whitehurst said.
ArtWorks for Milwaukee’s mission statement is to “prepare underserved teens to enter Milwaukee’s workforce by utilizing the arts as a method to teach employability skills,” and for Whitehurst the program does just that.
Interns are paid $6 per hour. They work together to develop skills and build a tolerant and diverse Milwaukee workforce.
ArtWorks strives to teach underperforming high school students that they can achieve employment success. The organization provides interns with mentors, often professional and gallery artists, and other resources.
Whitehurst’s aunt told him about ArtWorks. He thought the program sounded worthwhile and would provide an outlet for his creativity that was lacking at his high school.
Whitehurst said he is able to apply personal experience to his artwork and showcase what is really occurring in teenagers’ lives.
One of his latest pieces shows a baby with a peace symbol on his head surrounded by alcohol and a group of partying teenagers. The child asks the provocative question, “Is this how you really want to live your life?”
“I am from a minority,” Whitehurst said. “And yeah, we really do need these things, so we can see them and wake up just a little bit.”
The Safe Messages graphic design program is one of many programs ArtWorks offers. Other programs are geared to the spoken word, printmaking, digital photography, street art and textile arts.
ArtWorks hosts spring and fall sessions that usually run eight weeks. Interns work approximately 10 hours each week over three days after school. Summer projects of up to 20 hours per week also are available.
Artist and educator Jon Brown is a mentor and lead artist for teenage interns at ArtWorks for Milwaukee. Brown helps his students design anti-drug and anti-violence campaigns and develop the skills necessary to succeed in the art and design world.
This story is part of a special report focusing on eight agencies that provide services to neighborhood residents in a variety of communities. Students from Marquette’s Diederich College of Communication created the pieces under the supervision of Prof. Herbert Lowe and NNS Editor Sharon McGowan.