Mayor Jeff Griffin

Youth ArtWorks

Youth ArtWorks Entry is a community Collaboration between the Sierra Arts Foundation, Nevada Museum of Art and the City of Reno - Reno Police Department.

Mayor Jeff Griffin, on behalf of the citizens of Reno, the Reno Police Department, the Sierra Arts Foundation and the Nevada Museum of Art, is pleased to submit Youth ArtWorks as an entry in the 1999 Christina Mattin Arts Award Program. Youth ArtWorks (YAW) has been in existence for three years, completing another successful program this summer. Over 80 at-risk youth, ages 15 to 21, known as "artist apprentices" have completed several spectacular murals in our community, while earning a wage and gaining invaluable life experience that may lead them to a profession in the arts.

Not only have the murals beautified our community, the apprentices have learned to appreciate public art, and have gained important job skills, built portfolios, learned to work on a team, become familiar with signage regulations and gained knowledge to start their own personal businesses.

The apprentices have gained knowledge about themselves as individuals and artists, and have built personal self-confidence and self-esteem. They have learned respect for public property and that they are capable of creating something of value that the 300,0004- residents of the area can be proud of and appreciate.

YAW was started by the collaborating partners to address the community-wide problem of graffiti and the defacing of public and private property by disenfranchised youth known as "taggers". Since early 1994? Reno had battled graffiti through a coalition including the Reno Police Department, Washoe County Juvenile Services and the Sheriffs Office, and Western Nevada Clean Communities. In 1997; the Junior League of Reno raised nearly $80,000 for the purchase of a state-of-the-art graffiti removal system.

However, the Reno Police Department realized just covering up graffiti was not enough. They sought the collaboration of SAF and NMA, and a plan for ArtWorks was formed. JOIN (Job Opportunities in Nevada) provided major funding for apprentice salaries.

Youth ArtWorks, as with any successful program, has evolved and grown over the past 3 years. In 1999 the program was expanded to include:

- a literary project that will result in a published volume of poetry, short stories and drawings which apprentices write and design

- performing/circus acts training for performances at the Summer Arts Festival, area schools and nursing homes through The Theater Coalition

- landscape architecture/community garden project in collaboration with the Community Design Center, a local non-profit group of architects and designers, to beautify and install park-like settings in the middle of a blighted 19408 motel row.

The collaborating partners, the City, SAP and NMA, have drawn heavily from community resources and have included many volunteers and businesses in the program such as JOIN, Home Depot, Reno Paint Mart, River City Rentals and the University of Nevada Reno, the Junior League, the arts and architectural landscape design communities, and private charitable foundations.

In 1999, 3 local artists and muralists and 4 senior apprentices selected from the previous 54 junior apprentices, supervised and trained 32 junior apprentices and placed a mural on the Old Billinghurst Gym in downtown Reno facing a soccer field. Youth artists utilized public libraries to do research and develop the mural themes based on upon community input. The Reno Parks and Recreation Commission granted final approval for the design, teaching them about the government process as well. All apprentices must go through a formal application and interview process that is reviewed by the professional artists and collaborators on each project. After selection, they are required to go through a classroom portion of the project that includes basics in arts education. The classes focus on the principles of art and design, obtaining a business license, creating a portfolio, art history, and work ethics including violence in the workplace and sexual harassment.

The mural project required apprentices spend 4 weeks creating the project. At the end, a formal dedication/recognition ceremony was held to honor their individual contribution to the community. Youth ArtWorks is aimed at changing behavior, and the partners believe that paying for the work sends a strong message to apprentices. Apprentices realize they are capable of creating something of value to themselves and the community.

During the summer of 1998, Youth ArtWorks employed 30 apprentices, and began funding one-half by JOIN and one-half through private and public dollars. This allowed not only economically disadvantaged apprentices, but also apprentices from other social and economic backgrounds to participate in the program. Many new friendships and working relationships have been formed that might never have happened in other circumstances.

The program budget has increased significantly from $747985 In 1997 to $131,886 in 1999 to a projected $175,850 in 2000. Revenues and in-kind contributions have come from Reno arts and culture grants, private foundations, the Nevada Arts Council, JOIN, the State of Nevada, and several private businesses and individuals. In addition, Reno Police Department has diverted 500 hours of annual salary for its Community Liaison Officer to work on the project.

The program has been embraced and supported by the Mayor and the Reno City Council as part of the City's continued commitment to arts and culture, and to public safety. The Mayor has taken a personal interest in the arts, and has been a champion of Youth ArtWorks. He has facilitate obtaining mural sites and participated in the "graduation" events honoring the apprentices. According to Rick Woods, Sierra Arts Foundation, in the Sparks Tribune, "The appearance of Reno improves, and as neighborhoods are beautified, the community feels safer. Rather than returning to destructive behaviors the youths, after gaining a greater sense of their personal potential, will seek career opportunities once thought out of reach."


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