Some Student Artists in the Ohio Schools Will Apprentice This Summer

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

With all the education budget cuts during the past decade and a renewed focus on reading and mathematics, the arts have seen many cutbacks and even programs eliminated.  Though educators recognize that the arts is an important subject for graduating well-rounded students, the new government requirements do not leave any time or money to underwrite the programs needed. Thus, students who wish for a career in the arts are the ones now left behind, unless their parents recognize their children’s talent and can afford to send them to private schools. Additionally, students with latent artist abilities may never recognize these skills, since they will not have the opportunity to experience the arts firsthand in the school environment.

In the Ohio schools, some students are being given a helping hand.  Every June for one month, a few Ohio schools secondary students are given the opportunity to apprentice with a professional artist, actually working on a commissioned project.

The program is called Arts LIFT (Lola Isroff Fund for Teens). The Ohio schools teens are selected from the Akron high schools and spend three days at the Cuyahog Valley Environmental Education Center for a retreat. Then, they work under the direction and tutelage of the professional artist.

This year, ten Ohio schools teens will be apprenticed under Akron artist and professional ceramist Beth Lindenberger. After their three-day retreat, the Ohio schools teens will create large-scale, permanent ceramic sculptures at the University of Akron’s Myers School of Art. The artwork will be installed at the Environmental Education Center at the end of June. A public reception follows in July at the Art School. Throughout the Ohio schools teens apprentice period, exhibits of artworks from their personal portfolios will be exhibited at the Art School in the Emily David Gallery, Folk Hall. Each student receives a stipend for their participation.

Arts LIFT won a Collaborative Project Award from the Akron Area Arts Alliance in 2005.  The apprentice program was conceived and is directed by Elisa Gargarells, a University of Akron art education assistant professor. 

The purpose of the program is to give Ohio schools students in Akron a chance to work with and see professional artists in the context of using their talents for hire in the real world. The program also seeks to connect Ohio schools students with institutions that deal with conservation and environmental issues, as well as real ecological efforts.  The desired outcome is for Ohio schools students to see that their artistic talents are marketable as a career, as well as being able to help the community and environment.

Previous Ohio schools students in the program have created:

  • Large hanging, stained glass butterflies for the Corbin Conservatory at Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in 2004;
  • About 40 ceramic sculptures for the Crown Point Ecology Center’s perennial garden in 2003; and
  • An animal habitat-themed mural for the Akron Zoo’s educational outreach van in 2002.

Though cutbacks and educational refocusing have severely hurt the arts program in the Ohio schools, some students in Akron are getting the encouragement they need and deserve.

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