The North Little Rock City Council on Aug. 27 approved an appropriation of $50,000 to help finance a youth arts program being implemented by the Argenta Arts Foundation.
The foundation’s Art Connection youth program is geared toward getting North Little Rock teens to become active in art.
The Council’s action came as Argenta Arts Foundation Chairman John Gaudin reminded aldermen that on April 9 the city of North Little Rock entered into an agreement with the foundation.
"As a condition to the agreement for funding the Argenta Arts Foundation was to develop an after-school and summer jobs program for under-resourced NLR youth," Gaudin wrote aldermen. "That program opened the doors on Friday, Aug. 17. An executive director and program manager have been hired to fulfill the mission of providing a means for teens of the city of North Little Rock to achieve higher education, citizen leadership and self-sufficiency through paid employment."
Gaudin said students were starting to be recruited for jobs beginning on Aug. 28.
"The first 15 teens are set to start working by mid-September 2012," according to Gardin.
Donna Hardcastle, Argenta Arts Foundation executive director, said students must meet certain criteria to be enrolled into the program. Requirements include:
• Be at least 14 years old.
• Enrolled at North Little Rock High School.
• The student needs to complete the program’s apprentice program.
• Maintain at least a C grade in all classes.
• Attend the program at 4-7 p.m. during the school year and noon to 5 p.m. during the summer.
"To ensure that our program includes a diverse group of teens, we are reaching out to the various communities across the city of North Little Rock," Hardcastle said. "We want students from all of these communities to have the opportunity to participate in Art Connection."
The program’s coordinator, Andrew Whitley, will be conducting orientation sessions in the high school this week.
"After these sessions, students will be encouraged to apply," she said. "The interview and selection process will then take place and our first Art Connection employees will be recruited."
The program officially begins on Sept. 11, she said.
Art Connection Director Pammi Fabert said Arts for Humanity in Boston was the model program that inspired North Little Rock’s program.
"Our program will also focus on the key areas of respect, responsibility and positive relationships," Fabert said. I consider it a privilege to be involved in this project. It will be so awe-inspiring to witness these young artists not only discover their creative talents but grow and mature personally, academically and professionally from the inside out. I believe Art Connection will transform their lives and in turn, their art and experience will change us."
Fabert said the after-school and summer work visual arts program offers one-on-one mentoring with professional artists and academic tutoring to improve their grades.
"Our mission is to provide a path for these students to achieve higher education, citizen leadership and self-sufficiency through paid employment in the creative economy," Fabert said.
Students will receive training in such areas like painting, graphic design, web design, screenprinting and furniture design.
"They will be paid a minimum wage as well as have the opportunity to sell their art and receive a percentage of the sales," Fabert said. "We will partner with local arts organizations such as the Thea Foundation, public schools and colleges, the city of North Little Rock, professional artists and local business professionals to design, market and sell customized products and services."
Fabert added, "Through collaboration with these various community members and organizations, our teens will be empowered to develop as leaders and innovators. We truly believe that all individuals possess creativity so there is no requirement for our applicants to be artistic. Art Connection will provide a safe learning environment where creativity is nurtured and the teens have the opportunity and freedom to explore their talents."