Teens find summer jobs as artists


Summer generally includes lots of sunshine, lots of spare time, and lots of job applications for many teens. Reluctantly, teens often turn to frying foods and selling shirts to earn money.

Fortunately for some creative teens an alternative to the fast food and retail routines exists with ArtsWork, a youth employment program developed by COMPAS, a local arts education organization.

ArtsWork hires aspiring young artists during the summer to create pieces of art to sell. Apprentice work ranges from performances, like theatre and dance, to photography, painting, mosaics and more.

Nine professional artists guided roughly 700 apprentices in eight different groups as they work approximately 150 hours during the course of six weeks during this summer. The students wages ranged from$6.55 to $8 an hour, depending on experience.

The mosaics group created 60 smaller mosaics sold this summer for more than $1,300. The group also donated mosaics to Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota, where they sold for about $30 each.

Past and more current ArtsWork art, including more than mosaics, is sold while the program runs at the ArtsWork store in the temporary EcoLab Plaza tent of St. Paul during the summer.

Lauren Mayhew, a 19-year-old apprentice this summer said: “I guess I would have had to find another job … that definitely would not have been as much fun.”

As with any job, there is an application process. At ArtsWork, the application for students includes a presentation of your artistic work in an interview, audition and sometimes a portfolio review.

Past apprentice Carolyn Soley, 17, said the portfolio can have variety and is usually used to see “if you have made an honest effort.”

Mayhew said it is used “to see the potential there.”

Professional mosaics artist Sharra Frank, who directed the mosaics project this summer, said she looks at the portfolios to see if apprentices are “very motivated and focused – ready to do high quality work.”

“My attitude … is to treat them as professional artists. I have pretty high expectations of them – they always meet that expectation,” Frank said.

Frank said she enjoys encouraging apprentice artists to follow their dreams.

After her four years in the program, Mayhew said, “You really start to notice a change in yourself.”

Mayhew said that ArtsWork is a worthwhile thing to do and gives you skills you can use for the rest of your life. The program helped her expand artistically, she said.

ArtsWork is one of a few paid arts programs in the Twin Cities geared toward teens, but opportunities to grow as an artist are many.

Witt Siasoco works directly with the Walker Art Center’s Teen Arts Council, an unpaid education program that connects teens with contemporary artists. Siasoco said art programs for teens are a good fit because “artists ask a lot of the same questions that teenagers do” about things like identity and society.

The executive director of COMPAS, Bob Olsen, said that artists often become sole owners of a business. ArtsWork lets people explore their creativity and learn important fiscal skills, he said, and that makes working at ArtsWork one unusual summer job.