By Stefanie Wheat-Johnson
ArtPrenticeship Project Manager
When you grow and nurture a living thing, you must have a vision of what will take shape. This is true whether you’re a gardener planting a sapling tree, or a new parent meeting your infant and then guiding her toward maturity. All endevours that require this tending and nurturing have learning seasons and times of challenge or growth. This summer, it has been a true delight to witness the ARTPrenticeship program take shape and become a living and breathing, powerful force. It’s claimed a space in Waco and has left a beautiful mark on our city’s landscape and soul.
The souls for whom this program has had the primary impact are now preparing for their senior year in Waco ISD. Our apprentices took hold of the vision shared by mentors, and made it their own. Each one of these young people has left an indelible mark on the star of ARTPrenticeship, Creative Waco, and all of our partners. I find myself humbled, joyful and deeply satisfied when I think of our overall collaborative effort.
In the span of a summer, with remarkable and invaluable support from our community, I had the privilege of connecting the dots and creating the right structures to support out mentor artists and 10 apprentices in their work. Many things went according to plan, and the things that did not were overcome or our adaptations became an improvement to our original vision. Those of us in the mentor positions grew and learned right alongside these high school students and their voices made this experience a truly rich one. With each task accomplished, skill learned and goal completed, we could see a part of our present and future city connecting and soothing themselves in work that they took pride in.
While all of this great (challenging, hot, sweaty) labor was happening on our work site, there was an equally significant work happening off site. This work manifested itself in the generosity and encouragement of supporters and sponsors, and in the plain old enthusiasm of anyone and everyone who connected with the project. Each of you lifted up our apprentices and helped them see themselves in new light. Thank you. There is nothing like sharing a vision and then seeing it spread! As we move toward the launch event to celebrate our first completed mural, we’re already beginning to plan and dream again. I believe that ARTPrenticeship has a special part to play in the growth and change in Waco today. It inspires, challenges and connects us as humans in community and celebrates the best in us all.
The stories of these young people are writ large and embedded across a vibrant and breathtaking canvas on 2nd and Jackson in downtown Waco. Their stories, imprinted on our hearts, are paired with their hard earned determination and growing confidence. They have so much to be proud of when they see those stunning forms on the wall come together. They have memories with each other and their generous artist mentors and the skills they gained. Their resumes will speak clearly for them, their hearts and minds are primed for more creative work and they’re one step closer to being who they are each meant to be. The work was the mural, but the mural was in some ways only a lovely by-product of this project; I can’t wait to see what happens next for each of our apprentices and artists.
This is new. This is not your typical internship or arts program. It gets your attention and astonishes you at what can be achieved. The vision I hold in my mind’s eye is of ARTPrenticeship becoming a bold and beautiful voice in the chorus of artists and creative opportunities that work together in Waco. With our city’s youth at its core – it has the power to heal, grow and connect like nothing else. For myself, this project has lifted me up, provided me with new vision and renewed passion. I am deeply thankful to have been a part of seeing 1,000 Hopes take flight this summer.