St. Louis ArtWorks has reached an important milestone having provided more than 1400 youth (ages 14-19) with arts education and job training. These teens have few, if any, opportunities to learn about the arts or to enhance their artistic talents. The budgets of art departments in area schools are being cut and most art teachers are now part-time and have limited supplies. Similarly, the need for teen job training programs in urban neighborhoods is growing because there are so few employment opportunities available. The Creative Futures program addresses both of these issues, building on a concept that has proven success for more than 13 years.
The Creative Futures program uses a year-round, three-session approach (Fall, Spring and Summer) to training and arts education. The program provides youth with positions as apprentice artists, supplemented with individual assessments, case management, and special workshops, speakers, and field trips. The primary target population for this program is juniors and seniors in high school who meet the eligibility criteria. They are recruited through schools, community centers, our community partners, and arts centers.
The Spring and Fall session allows the apprentices to work under the leadership of two professional artists to develop an art product for sale, with an emphasis on learning computer-aided graphic design. Students work 6 hours a week for 12 weeks in each program session earning a stipend for their work. The final product will be debuted in a special event for apprentices’ families and friends of the program. During the Summer session, the Creative Futures apprentices, along with other St. Louis ArtWorks summer apprentices, participate in one of six different visual and performing arts disciplines where they work for five hours a day, five days a week for six weeks.
In addition to hands-on learning, all apprentices participate in leadership development and life-skill workshops, focusing on topics such as health and wellness, interview skills, and career paths. Apprentices also must complete an Individual Service Strategy and meet regularly with our Program Counselor to review their progress against personal goals. Any identified issues or barriers to success will be addressed through one-on-one counseling and/or referrals to other community support services. The knowledge and skills that these apprentices gain help prepare them for future careers in a wide range of career fields, both arts-related and others. In addition, these youth will be paid for their work as they learn, making Creative Futures a win-win for everyone.