The Student Publication of Denver East High School

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The Cost of Art

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Gabriella Herrera walks into the spacious studio, inhaling the scent of paint and fresh sheets of paper, and notices the young faces concentrating on the project in front of them. “I wouldn’t be where I’m today without the help of these programs I’ve been involved in,” reflects Herrera, a junior in high school. Herrera is one of many young Denver artists who never would have gotten her start in art if not for nonprofit organizations that seek to aid artistic, underprivileged youth.

One such organization is Platte Forum, a nonprofit that supports artists and under-served youth in innovative, long-term arts programs. Participants are given the opportunity to work side-by-side with artists in residence. Program director Alex Jimenez explains, “We do K-12 programing and have Artlab interns. We look for students that don’t necessarily have access to programs. We pair them up with higher quality art programing, and also work with children from other organizations like Colfax Community network and Boys and Girls Club.”

A similar program is Art Street, which offers paid internships to teenagers and allows them to use their time spent there as volunteer work. Youth experience the work force by communicating with clients and collaborating with other artists to finish a piece.

Art Street Teacher and program coordinator, Chelsea Romaniello, explains their program, “It’s an opportunity [for students] to see how their creative skills can actually fit into the workforce. They know that they have creative skills, but don’t necessarily know how to use them to get a job. For a lot of them, it’s a job-training program… it gives an opportunity to learn skills that [help] them stand out when they are looking for jobs.”

Herrera says of her own experience, “I turned to youth art programs when I was fifteen years old, and it’s been beneficial for me and my career as an artist,” she continues, “Art programing lends a sense of expressing your creativity. For myself, it is hard to come up with money to buy supplies for projects. Because my family is considered low income we aren’t able to buy materials for the media I work in, like photography and videography.”

Many East students are involved with these programs. Senior Kyra Kaviani, intern at Platte Forum, shares the reason for her involvement, “At the time my father was going through chemotherapy, because he had leukemia. My family didn’t really have that much money,” she explains, “I wanted to do something artsy, so I saw this ad for Platte Forum and signed up.” Kaviani is grateful to the Platte Forum, “It’s changed me for the better. It has made me become more open minded, offered many opportunities, and I’ve able to work with a diverse group of people.”

To attract students like Kaviani and Herrera programs utilize high school counselors and social media, “Every workshop has a flyer and application and those are e-mailed to schools, counselors, other program coordinators, contacts, and past youth to see who is interested for the next upcoming workshops,” describes Romaniello. The goal is to get as many students involved as possible.

East Visual Arts teacher, Ms. Klein, was not previously aware of these programs, but observes, “I think any art program offered to students at little to no cost will help them grow as an artist. For some underprivileged youth students, art class may be the one reason they show up to school for the day.”

Paired with the art classes at East, programs like Platte Forum and Art Street give students the opportunity to learn what an artist does in their everyday life. “Many schools don’t really see art as a career, but more as a hobby,” explains Herrera, “Youth programing is something that gives artists networking skills and the ability to be creative with other people we can relate to, and that’s why I keep coming back.”

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The Cost of Art