Arts for Learning Takes Over Wynwood

For the last six weeks, Wynwood has been alight with more art making than normal for the summer as Arts for Learning Miami has transformed the neighborhood into a creative campus for its fourth annual ArtWorks Internship program. It culminates with two performances this week featuring work from students in the theater, dance and creative writing co-ops at The Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, and an art exhibition at Little Haiti’s Laundromat Art Space featuring work for sale by the visual arts interns, as well as pieces by Pablo Cano, William Cordova, Jeff Dekal and more. Proceeds from the sale of artwork and ticket admission will fund future internships.

Fifty students from high schools across Miami-Dade and Broward counties have been reporting to their paid internships at the Light Box and the Bakehouse Art Complex five days a week, six hours a day. There, students don their dance shoes, pick up paint brushes and pens, to study with instructors who are also professional working artists, gaining not just artistic expertise but professional experiences as well.

“The whole gist of the program is to use arts as a vehicle to teach career skills, 21st-century skills, and life skills,” explains Arts for Learning Program Director Ivy Bennett. “It's not only about them creating works of art — it’s also focused on career skills, using the arts to teach teamwork, to teach time management. We understand that not every student is going to want to be an artist, but we’re hoping that they can take these skills and transfer it into any industry that they decide to go in.”

Ajanae Mason, a second-year theater intern who recently graduated from William H. Turner Technical Institute and will be going to Howard University in the fall with the goal of becoming a pediatric neurosurgeon, has experienced the transformative power of the arts during her time with the program. “Working with others students that share the same passion that I do for drama and theater has just been really fun and really educational,” she says. “It’s allowed me to grow a lot, I’ve learned things about myself that I didn’t know before. I never believed that I was really good at working with teams, because I like to work alone and at my own pace, but working with them, I’ve learned that I actually can work in groups and be of use to other people and learn from other people.”

By bringing the students together over a shared love of the arts, the ArtWorks program creates an even playing field for students where growth and development is encouraged and supported at a critical juncture in young people's lives, as major life decisions like college and career loom large.

“A lot of what we are doing is helping these young people legitimize what they are passionate about,” Bennett says. “I get a lot of comments like ‘Oh, I really love to do this, but my parents don’t think it’s a good way to make a living or my parents don’t think that anything will come of this,’ and I think [in] the end, we are helping them to see that this is a viable career.

“And not only are we seeing a change in the students’ perspective, we are seeing a change in a lot of the parents’ perspective, because they come in and say, ‘My god, he’s so open and so very career oriented, and is talking about resumes,’ so it’s really helping broaden both parents and students thinking about the arts and their purpose.”

Mason agrees. “I feel that the skills I have acquired here are not just theater based. I feel like because the skills have allowed me to grow and develop as a person, I can use them wherever I go.”

– Rebekah Lanae Lengel, 

Arts for Learning Miami 2015 ArtWorks culminating performance “Influence”, Thursday at noon and 7 p.m. at the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami; tickets $10. ArtWorks culminating Visual Art Exhibition “LEveLS,” Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Laundromat Art Space, 5900 NW Second Ave., Miami.

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