2 Tyler summer art programs sketch paths to new career options

Patrice Davis always knew his daughter Treasure had artistic promise.

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The 15-year-old had taken art classes in school, but wanted to do more. That’s why she was ecstatic when her art teacher nominated her for ArtStart, one of two four-week, full-scholarship summer art programs held in July at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art.

TYLISA C. JOHNSON / Staff

Patrice Davis and his daughter Treasure stand Friday in front of a cardboard perfume bottle she made in the Tyler summer program.

In the Davises’ Mount Airy neighborhood, such opportunities are rare, the father said.

“Other than school … she didn’t really have the opportunity to go to any place to learn more about art,” Davis said. “We really don’t have that in most urban neighborhoods. This [program] is very good.”

“She should be real proud of herself,” he said Friday at Tyler, admiring a drawing by his daughter on display in a one-day exhibition of the work of 60 students for families and friends to view.

The exhibition was the finale of ArtStart and DigiStart, created for high school juniors and seniors with artistic promise, who don’t often have opportunities to improve their art skills outside class.

Laura Hricko, who leads Tyler’s pre-college programs, said she wants students to know “this is a space for you, and going to school for art is a real thing,” even if life circumstances dictate otherwise.

“And it can be really fulfilling,” Hricko said. “We just feel so proud that we’re able to welcome them into the school.”

TYLISA C. JOHNSON / Staff

Laura Hricko leads the pre-college programs at Temple’s Tyler School of Art. At ArtStart and DigiStart, two full-scholarship art programs, rising high school juniors and seniors, many from underserved communities, learn that a future in art is possible.

Many of the kids in the 26-year-old program are of color, come from underserved neighborhoods, and go to schools with limited or no art programs. Across the city, schools have uneven opportunities to participate in arts and music programs.

A 2017 analysis of city schools’ arts programs showed that 90 percent of the Philadelphia School District’s 220 schools have full-time art or music education, and 60 percent have both. Some schools have no arts program at all.

Without the scholarship, the program would cost about $1,200 per student, to cover tuition and supplies.

A December 2017 study by Eleanor Brown, a professor of psychology at West Chester University, found that “high quality arts programming can decrease stress levels for children facing economic hardship.”

In Philadelphia, where nearly 400,000 people live in poverty, arts camps can be seen as a luxury, only available to those who can pay the price. But the camps are an effort to break that accessibility barrier, Hricko said.

Ideally, she said, the program also would feed students into the art programs at Temple. On average, about three program alumni end up at the school each year, she said.

ArtStart and DigiStart

TYLISA C. JOHNSON, Staff

Work by ArtStart students on display Friday at Tyler School of Art.

In ArtStart, about 40 students take a program that mirrors a freshman year at Tyler. They learn drawing, painting, sculpture, and other skills. In DigiStart, about 20 students learn animation, Adobe programs, photography, and more digital skills.

Most teens leave the program more confident, more prepared for life, according to Rebekah Flake, an instructor at DigiStart for three years.

“It’s really good career training,” Flake said.

Each year, the program gets about 70 applications. Students must be nominated by an art teacher or guidance counselor.

The program runs on Tyler’s tuition funding, Hricko said, but she hopes to fundraise enough money to expand the program.

Janiyah Jordan, 15, a rising junior at Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker in West Philadelphia, plans to pursue art in college, but even if she doesn’t, she says, “art will always be a part of my life.”

For the exhibition, Jordan recreated half of a silver heart necklace she shares with her mom using cardboard, hot glue, X-Acto knives, charcoal and paint. When she saw it hanging in the gallery Friday, she was speechless.

TYLISA C. JOHNSON / Staff

Janiyah Jordan, 15, with her recreated necklace.

When Jordan’s art teacher told her about the program, she didn’t hesitate. “Of course I applied,” she said.

When she was accepted, she said, “it was like a college acceptance letter.”

As a child, Anthony Benedetto-Russ drew what he saw on television. He’s wanted to do art ever since. In the fall, the 17-year-old will be a senior at MaST Community Charter School in the Northeast.

Benedetto-Russ was nominated for DigiStart by his graphic design teacher.

“I like creative freedom, so I’d rather do something that I like. … And I can get paid for it too,” Benedetto-Russ said. “I don’t want to work an office job, sitting in a cubicle being like, ‘Man, I wish I was drawing right now.’”

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