I was a deer among wolves, too slow for my own good. As I strolled past more than 300 works of art during the seventh annual Studio2000 summer auction and sale, I noticed people hovering over certain pieces, basically marking them as their own, and quickly realized I was far too laid-back. Or, as Ben Johnson, assistant director of the Louisville Metro Office of Youth Development described it, I was a “rookie” in the midst of “veterans.”
The summer Studio2000 sales are legendary. Patrons aren’t just friends and family of the students whose work is for sale, but also people who want to support Louisville Metro’s art apprenticeship program and pick up some pieces at an affordable price. This year’s silent auction at the Kentucky Center began on July 20, with tagged items on sale the following day after an awards ceremony. (For the record, Luis Miguel Borroto and Diana Slider tied for Best of Show.)
Mayor Jerry Abramson spoke at the event, and noted that students in the program represent 25 high schools, from 20 zip codes and six nations. Junior apprentice Christopher Harshfield presented one of his works to the mayor, a square ceramic jar decorated with Louisville scenes. The sale raised an estimated $9,100; the next one, on Dec. 3, will include work from the fall session that starts on Oct. 14.
Studio2000 is part of the city’s Office of Youth Development; its mission is to provide programs that improve kids’ lives. Its main studio is in the Hope Mills Building at 942 E. Kentucky St., along with a number of other OYD programs. Studio2000 employs, for six weeks during the fall, spring or summer, 14- to 18-year-old students from public, private and parochial schools in Louisville Metro. Studio2000 goals go beyond mere on-the-job training; the programs helps students learn about the city’s art scene, and the art professionals who make up that world. It can also provide a nice boost to self-confidence.
There are daily success stories. At the top of that list could be Kenyatta Hinkle, an apprentice from the 2005 summer session. The Manual High School student recently received a scholarship to the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Said Studio2000 coordinator Bob Markert: “She rose above a difficult situation.”
Now, he said, “She’s bright, focused, energetic, besides having enormous talent. We’ve had several kids like that. They wouldn’t have gotten their GED if not for art.” Her self-portrait hangs on an OYD office wall.
It came from Chicago
About 350 high school students have enrolled in Studio2000 since it began six years ago during former Mayor Dave Armstrong’s administration. It was based on an art apprenticeship program in Chicago, Gallery 37, which Dave and Carol Armstrong learned about while attending a mayors’ conference there. Carol Armstrong became intrigued and believed Louisville would benefit from a similar program.
Debbie Shannon, vice president of education at the Kentucky Center, was on the committee that formed Studio2000. “(Gallery 37) had gotten a grant to document their program so that it could be replicated,” she said. “There were many spin-offs around the country.” Shawn Lee served at the program’s first part-time coordinator; when Markert became coordinator in 2002, the position became full time. Lauren Morris, an artist working on a master’s in art education, is assistant coordinator.
Apprentices are chosen from applications that Studio2000 sends to area high schools. Additionally, each student must show a portfolio of artwork. “The Office of Youth Development catches kids falling through the cracks,” Markert said. “Kids with talent or innate dreams, in many schools they don’t get fulfilled. The portfolio review, as all kids have to have, may have anime or Bugs Bunny on lined paper — that’s the only tools they have. I make sure they get in sometime. It’s important to me they have a place to shine, and what better way to do it than through art?”
Professional artists work with the apprentices in a variety of media, and three media are taught per session. For example, this summer it was clay, fiber and paint/mixed media, taught by Gwendolyn Murphy, Stephen Hammer, Denise Furnish, Pamela Mattei, Elizabeth Berry and Aaron Lubrick. Glass, book arts, printmaking, graphic design and puppet-making have been taught in the past.
Students can designate which medium they want to work in, and they’re asked to discuss their choice in an essay as part of the application process. Monica Stewart, a student in this year’s summer session, worked in painting and mixed media. “The instructors are good and supportive and encouraged you to try new things,” she said. “The other students are supportive and accepting; we push each other to grow artistically. Teamwork is encouraged, especially when working on larger pieces.
“For me, I liked to plan out my projects and I created several different plans for each object. This was time-consuming, but I liked creating a variety of different approaches to the same object. And sometimes I am insecure about my work, so this helped me. The only downside was the air conditioner didn’t always work and the toilet was shifty.”
Because the summer sale takes place at the Kentucky Center, Center employees tend to be right in the middle of things. One Center employee, director of access services Martha Newman, had her eye on one of Stewart’s works, a paper cut of a woman. She had seen it when the sale was set up, and it made an impression.
“It just jumped out at me,” she said. “I continued to look and couldn’t get that piece out of my mind. Out of all the great art displayed, (it) was the one that just seemed to mean something to me.”
I had also spied this particular piece — ahem — and as Newman rounded the corner, I was just taking it off the wall. She looked so dismayed that I relinquished it.
Other “battles” over the art don’t go as smoothly. During last year’s silent auction, Julia Youngblood, director of the Center’s ArtsReach and Community Arts Education, got in a bidding war over one item.
“I kept upping the bid and soon realized that this other woman was coming right behind me and putting in a higher bid. My family members were keeping a watch on the piece also, and kept finding me in the crowd and prompting me to go higher, go higher! From sheer luck and family persistence, my name was the last one on the bidding sheet. On many occasions, I have thought about how heated that bidding got. It was all very pleasant, but heated nonetheless.”
This year, she said, she was bidding on one of Luis Miguel Borroto’s pieces, and the situation was similar.
“I kept going higher, all the while knowing that I was supporting this wonderful program, whether or not I ended up with the (teapot). Luis also had a hummingbird cup that had a dollar price listed, and before I started bidding on the teapot, I hoped to get the cup. Unfortunately, another woman had her eye on it and she stood over the piece and was not about to budge. As soon as the opening remarks and awards were announced, and the sale was on, she swooped up that cup and paid for it.”
I’m sad to report that Youngblood didn’t get the teapot either!
Now Studio2000 has inspired its own offshoot, Studio2000SI (SI refers to Southern Indiana). It began in the summer of 2005, and director Jenny Henneberger generally followed the Louisville example. Markert helped form Studio2000SI and sits on its board.
“This is a great opportunity for the kids; I wish there was a program like this when I was in high school,” Henneberger said, noting that her job gives her the freedom to take her young son to work. “It’s exciting to see the growth of the program during the first year — we’re ending our first year now.”
Studio2000SI is located in the White House Centre at 222 Pearl St. in New Albany. It provides Southern Indiana high school students a chance to work in fall, spring and summer sessions. Whereas Louisville’s program is part of Metro Government, Studio2000SI is funded by a Caesars Foundation of Floyd County grant. It also receives money from the New Albany City Council and the Floyd County Council.
Studio2000SI differs from its Louisville counterpart in that it holds two summer sessions. Gary Constable and Jeanie Warren taught one of this year’s sessions, which consisted of five students. Constable is a hot rod designer who demonstrated airbrushing and other media to the students. His themes were concept designs for cars and skateboards.
“In my business, a lot of it is unique ideas,” he said.
He enjoyed the experience and thinks “part of teaching is meeting deadlines, management, making a difference with people.”
A gallery exhibition of the students’ work is set for this Friday, Sept. 8, from 6-8 p.m. at the White House Centre.
Studio2000 is gearing up for Markert’s retirement on March 30. He plans to get back to other things he loves, such as staying busy at his Fenestra Studios, working in stained glass and stone, as well as being an ordained Catholic deacon. Markert won’t go too far, as he sees himself as the apprentices’ honorary grandfather, with “all those pluses that granddaddy implies.”
As for the future of Studio2000, he said the program “has enormous potential; we’re still crawling here. I hope anyone who follows me, with my strong foundation, will help explode Studio2000 into the public consciousness.”
For more information on Studio2000, contact Bob Markert at 574-1365 or [email protected]
Jenny Henneberger, of Studio2000SI, can be reached at (812) 941-0222 or [email protected]
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