Oasis, Creative Art Works' new mural at 601 Lexington Avenue, has been an extraordinary experience in many ways. For most of the Youth Apprentices who contributed to the design and execution of this mural, this was their first work experience and, for many of them, it was their first time making art of any sort. Yet they succeeded beautifully. The ethnic, religious and linguistic diversity of these young people is a reflection of, and a testament to, the creative dynamism that makes New York the greatest city in the world. Our Youth Apprentices flourished as individuals and succeeded as a team because of the unique attributes and different perspectives they brought to the table.
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On April 29, 2019, Deputy Director Karen Jolicoeur was delighted to represent Creative Art Works at an oversight hearing of the New York City's City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations. The subject at hand was the Cultural After School Adventures (CASA) Initiative, which brings high-quality arts partnerships to New York City public schools, particularly in underserved communities. As Karen makes clear in her brief statement, there are many ancillary benefits to CASA programs.
“Design is design, whether you are cutting and pasting with paper and scissors or 'cutting and pasting' on a computer. Kids who have a chance to do both make those connections.”
— CAW Teaching Artist Brandi Martin Yu on the common thread between CAW’s Book Arts and Digital Arts after-school programs at PSMS 278 in Manhattan.
Creating a short animated video is a whole lot of fun. It’s also a whole lot of work. Bringing a few seconds of animated video to life requires hours of planning, patience, and persistence. In this Creative Art Works’ after-school program, students learned the many skills needed to bring their creative vision to life.
Students at Hamilton Grange Middle School are studying Greek Myths in their English Language Arts class. While Greek gods had awesome powers they also had human flaws. To better understand how fictional characters can have complex personalities, these same students will be creating their own versions of gods with a mixtures of powers and flaws in a CAW integrated painting and drawing class.
CAW Youth Apprentices from Queensbridge Houses and Jacob Riis Neighborhood Settlement came together one Saturday to beautify "Baby" Park in Queensbridge. An outpouring of community support created a memorable day and a mural that will last for many years.
The most important connections in our lives are the ones closest to home. This summer, our Multimedia Team created five short films about nonprofits and other organizations that work to improve the quality of life in our city. The subjects include pianos in public places, a grass-roots effort to make improvements to a local city park, an ambitious plan to create murals in Upper Manhattan of 314 North American birds threatened by climate change, and a program that brings soccer and poetry to young NYC residents. Of course, there is also a documentary about Creative Art Works summer Public Art Youth Employment program.
“Migrations” is part of the The Audubon Mural Project, a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Gitler &_____ Gallery to create murals of North American birds around Washington Heights, where John James Audubon lived during the last years of his life. The project’s goal is to commission artists to paint murals of 314 species of birds which are threatened by a warming climate.
“Corporate art can be very boring, because there’s a perceived expectation of what corporations want, which can be interpreted as sterile or somber. So, don't give us what you think we want. Don't give us stock photos. Be real. Be bold. Be honest. Challenge our expectations.”
The 18 Youth Apprentices who designed this mural wanted to offer a message of hope and unity to the young people of the South Bronx, and to inspire them to pursue their passions and make healthy life choices. This message informs the symbolism of the mural. As a storm clears behind them, two PAL kids, supported by lily pads, work together to unlock the magic of their potential futures. The water illy symbolizes resilience and strength, as it gestates in the mud and rises to the top of the pond to bloom as a beautiful flower.
Our first set of "lightning interviews" were recorded on only the second day of our summer Public Art Youth Employment program, when our Youth Apprentices were just starting to get a handle on their job responsibilities. We're now past the halfway point, so our young painters and videographers have some experience under their belts. They know their jobs. They know their projects have tight, non-negotiable, deadlines. They know that there are high expectations.
And they are rising to the occasion.
“How can you NOT be optimistic about the future when you spend your days working with young people?” This summer, we’re going to try to bottle the experiences of our Youth Apprentices the way you might catch a firefly in a mayonnaise jar. Between now and the middle of August, we will be posting regular "lightning interviews" on our social media and in our newsletters. Read on for a six flashes of inspiration.
Kids at ACS Children’s Center are experiencing extraordinary circumstances at a young age, yet they remain resilient and they persevere. They are generally kind and loving to each other and adults. They have open hearts. These are also really smart. They are curious and eager to share their knowledge & interests. And their desire to create is palpable. Children seem to find their way into the art room.
As an undergraduate, I studied with Stanley Whitney, who taught me to embrace the unpredictable nature of color. Stanley said you have to admit that some things are beyond your control. When your paints don’t do what you want them to do, you have to turn that into an opportunity. That’s one of the axioms in my classroom, “There are no mistakes in art!”
How can a social media post help students better understand the motivations of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird? What qualities do Greek gods share with everyday heroes? These are questions that students in Creative Art Works' integrated arts programs are contemplating with this fall.
This fall, Creative Art Works is offering some of New York City’s most vulnerable youth an opportunity to connect with themselves and their community, develop their own voice and, simply enjoy a healthy and creative experience. CAW is providing two after-school art programs to young children and teens living in the Children’s Center, a transitional residence run by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) for young people who are awaiting foster care placement.
"...Our mural began and we finished the plan,
And I just want to say how proud that I am.
I’m blessed for my God, blessed for my people,
Blessed to be up here rather down there with evil.
Blessed to be on the mural that’s mentioned,
The mural that brings out attention,
The mural that we have invented,
This is our Ascension!"
"...our final proposal to the client was all of our ideas put together... We sorted. We found a way to put it all together, so now everyone’s satisfied with what they see."
CAW Summer Youth Apprentice Cyrell Primo shares her #SummerJobStories and touches on the intersection of music, art and ideas.