Mary Cannon, the program’s director, has been involved from the beginning.
“[Art at Work] is geared towards youth ages 14 to 16,” she said. “Since the program started, the teens have been involved in different productions of art. We recently expanded the program to include instruction and performing arts.”
The target population of the program is at-risk, undeserved teens, who are Fulton County residents, although, as Cannon said, participation is not limited to merely that demographic.
“We were trying to be proactive instead of reactive and to prevent and curtail students that were going into juvenile [detention] or to try to help them change their direction,” she said.
Art At Work operates in a unique way, inspiring teens to feel responsible for their creations. Each teen is considered to be an apprentice and is “for hire” to create their own work.
During whichever session teens participate, they receive an hourly wage for their work as an artist.
“The program operates year-round and is comprised of three eight- to 10-week sessions and one four-week summer session,” said Cannon.
During the sessions, the apprentices, which normally don’t top more than 30 per session, adhere to a predetermined theme.
In the past, themes have been time and teens even refurbished old furniture with their own artistic spin.
The impact of the program extends far beyond the teens being able to earn their own income, according to Cannon.
“In a lot of cases because of the limited access to arts in many of the school systems, the kids don’t get to express themselves in the creative way that they may need to,” Cannon said. “[The teens] have been extremely positive and have attended most every day. It is a positive outlet for them.”
This year’s summer session of Art at Work will begin on July 9 and will run through Aug. 3.
All sessions will be at the West End Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. in Atlanta.
Cannon said she is still toying around with the theme, but it will most likely be a play on hip-hop and gospel music.
Applications are still are still being accepted to be placed on the wait list for the summer session.