ArtsPlace offers creative outlet for teens

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-zydi8hikI4.jpg’, ‘Photo by Paul Marek’, ‘Artwork on sale to support the efforts of ArtsPlace and its students.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-r2F0tcSRWU.jpg’, ‘Photo by Paul Marek’, ”);

While many view art as a creative medium for self-expression, it also has several other applications. ArtsPlace, a Rockford Area Arts Council program, uses various forms of art to prepare teens for the challenges they will later encounter in the workplace.

Sharon Nesdit-Davis, a project director at ArtsPlace and education director for the aforementioned Arts Council, explained that the program features dance and drama along with visual arts teams such as print making, sculpture, fine arts painting and functional art. Over an eight-week period from June to August, the teens are apprenticed to professional artists and work 20 hours a week. They can earn a stipend up to $85 a week by achieving certain work goals such as being punctual, productive and cooperative.

“The goal is that the youth can learn basic job skills that can be applied to any kind of job,” Nesdit-Davis said.

This summer, ArtsPlace has 59 apprentices and six assistant artists. Teens ranging from 14 to 18 who reside in Winnebago County can apply starting in mid-March. “We select kids based on their interest in the arts as well as knowing there might be some needs we can help fulfill. Many of our kids would be considered at-risk,” Nesdit-Davis said.

Although art is the main focus, teens are also taught how to write resumes and conduct successful interviews. Younger teens engage in mock job interviews with ArtsPlace staff members, while older teens are interviewed by local business leaders who volunteer their time.

The apprentices are also expected to present their work on a regular basis. Open houses are held every Wednesday through Aug. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Main Street Mall in downtown Rockford. Guests will have the opportunity to witness dance and drama performances and purchase art. Additionally, the gallery store, at 323 W. State St., is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

ArtsPlace, now in its 10th year, relies largely on grants and the profits from artwork and dance/drama performances for

funding. The program is in need of new sponsorships since some of the grants it previously received will no longer be available.

“It’s very difficult finding the money, but we have to find it because the experience these kids have is just invaluable,” Nesdit-Davis said.

She explained that ArtsPlace must continue since many arts classes have been eliminated due to budget cuts in schools. Nesdit-Davis believes art is an integral part of society and wants ArtsPlace to serve as a positive and creative outlet for teens.

Info: 962-7893 or visit 323 W. State St.

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