Creative in the Community: Emerging Artists

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Trout Museum of Art hosts the Emerging Artists program, Appleton, March 10, 2020 (WCWF/ Beni Petersen)

APPLETON (WCWF) -- Learning about those creative in Northeast Wisconsin... we take our focus to Appleton and its Emerging Artists program. Held inside the Trout Museum of Art, it's a free weekly mentoring program for independent and passionate young artists (ages 9-18) to work at their own, self-directed pace.

The program works differently than usual classes. In fact they don't use the term "class" or "classrooms", but instead refer to them as "pods." And instead of having a structured curriculum for teaching the group as a whole, Art Educators Mark Ferrell and Lief Larson observe the students in their individual creations, sharing constructive feedback.

Mark says, "I’ve always wanted to have a pipeline for young artists... not everybody needs a cookie-cutter syllabus, not everybody needs the same things. So, with the passions these kids have for art, we observe what they’re doing- and just assist, guide them along their path."

Students also gain knowledge of what it takes to be a working artist. They learn the business of art, including everything from studio habits, work ethic, project management skills and critical thinking.

Mark says, ".. they come in here, they produce art, we have art shows – some of these kids sell their work. And that’s a whole different experience. Things like pricing their work, that’s one of the hardest things an artist has to do but it’s something that you have to learn. And the biggest thing they have to learn is they don’t give it away."

Leif Larson explains why he believes it's important for youth to participate in the arts.

"Art is an incredible way to remind human beings that there’s more to life than just surviving in the world, and I think kids intrinsically have a curiosity and a joy for the world that is... art seems to be a very obvious way to sort of help that blossom. And for those kids that have connected with that already, it’s important that they are embraced in their creative spirit."

Leif says he aims to write a healthy narrative to help kids realize art can be both a passion and a career.

"This is not something their doing because they’re kids.. it’s something they can do as adults and learn to make it a part of their life, a way they live their life... not just making things but being more creative in life and seeing the world more broadly."

Leif says they build support and positivity for the students in their work, but also aim to make them aware of the challenges that come with being a creative.

"I think Mark and I are both very interested in being honest with the kids about the ups and downs of the artist, but not trying to over-embellish the things that can be challenging as something that maybe make them reconsider why they’re doing it..."

Emerging Artist, Gao Kia Moua, was one of the first students to take part in the program. She says she has learned a lot and it has helped her improve her creative skills. Gao shares why learning like this is important to her.

"I don't know, it gives me more opportunities than what I would have gotten if I just stayed at one place. It moved me out of my comfort zone- in a good way, and yeah just helped my art a lot."

Gao says through the program she has been able to show her work at galleries.... leading her to get commissioned as a working artist. Completed projects of the students are included in gallery exhibitions and art shows throughout Appleton.

Leif says, "I hope this continues for a long time, and I’m really glad to see these kids in here really enjoying what we’re up to.. and it’s just really wonderful."

Their goal is to grow the Emerging Artists program, planning to add a photography unit and open up enrollment. To donate, learn more, or apply a young artist to the program, head to the Trout Museum website and click on Emerging Artists under Education.

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