Khalim Davenport said he did not used to like talking to people. The 16-year old is shy and said he would rather spend his time hanging out at his house or playing football.
But this semester is a little bit different. One of Davenport’s high school teachers encouraged him to apply to ArtWorks for Milwaukee, a nonprofit that offers paid internships to Milwaukee County high school students. Apprehensive but also intrigued, he applied and was accepted for a spring internship.
Davenport spent a recent Friday night with seven other high school students at a gallery night in the Marshall Building, 207 E Buffalo St., displaying the work they’ve completed in the program thus far.
The internship prepares teens to enter the workplace by developing their creativity as well as professional skills.
“I’m really not good at art, but ArtWorks helped me with other things like job experience and talking to people,” Davenport said.
Some of the interns are passionate about art. Freshman Steven Daniels aspires to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and pursue a career as an artist.
“This program is awesome,” Daniels said. “I get paid to do what I love.”
Each group works on an eight-week community arts project centered on a theme. The spring program is titled, “What does peace look like?” The recent gallery night was only three weeks into the interns’ program, but a larger gallery showing will be held on April 26.
The first few weeks of the program focused on self-love as a form of peace. The students learned the process of printmaking by creating their own “self-love selfie.” By etching a photograph of themselves into a mold that can be inked and replicated multiple times, students can showcase what is going on in their lives. In upcoming weeks they will examine global and environmental peace.
Lead artist Kim Loper and intern Laree Pourier decided to start the program with self-love so students “can learn to claim themselves as beautiful and worthy,” Pourier said. “Many of these kids don’t believe in themselves. ”
ArtWorks, which has been operating in Milwaukee for 12 years, serves underperforming students at risk of dropping out as well as students with disabilities.
To ensure employment success, the organization provides interns with mentors and teaches them “soft skills” such as teambuilding and interviewing.
“I’m applying for jobs for this summer,” Davenport pointed out. “I don’t think I would’ve have done that without ArtWorks.”
Interns are paid $6 per hours. This, in itself, provides a lesson to students.
“It’s my first time having a job and money,” Ralphanna James, 16, said. “I’m learning how to balance a budget and save money for college instead of spending it all on clothes.”
ArtWorks offers spring and fall sessions. Interns work approximately 10 hours each week over three days after school. Summer internships of up to 20 hours per week also are available.
ArtWorks expects to work with more than 100 teen interns this year, up from 48 in 2013. The organization received a two-year capacity-building grant from the Helen Bader Foundation and additional support from Safe & Sound, the MPS Partnership for the Arts and ManpowerGroup.