Neighborhood Studios Connects Young Artists with the Arts
July 26 - August 2, 2006
By ALEXANDRA ANWEILER, The Hartford News Staff Writer
For the eighth consecutive year, Greater Hartford Arts Council’s Neighborhood Studios teen apprentice program is helping 14-18 year olds from 20 Greater Hartford towns learn and grow through the arts. The six-week hands-on program includes photography exhibition, theater, dance, jazz performance, and video production and editing.
This year, thanks to the St. Paul Travelers Foundation and five additional sponsors, 75 participants have opportunities to train and create art at some of Hartford’s best known cultural institutions, including the Wadsworth Atheneum, Artists Collective, Charter Oak Cultural Center, Hartford Stage and Real Art Ways.
Apprentices receive a stipend of $100 per week for their work. Libra Dutcher, 17, of Farmington High School stressed the responsibility that her apprenticeship at Real Art Ways entails. “It’s not a place to be lazy. It’s a lot of work,” Dutcher said.
Similar to applying to college or a job, prospective participants were required to complete an intensive application process. Luis Samuel Cruz, 14, of Saint Brigid School in Hartford, felt that the application process will help him later in life. “[The interview] was a really good experience,” Cruz said.
For apprentices at Real Art Ways, the biggest perk is the availability of high tech video production and editing equipment, including six new apple computers that would otherwise not be accessible to them. The students’ goal is to create two documentary pieces that focus on different aspects of Hartford’s Parkville neighborhood by conducting their own interviews with Parkville residents.
Hartford Stage apprentices are connecting to the city in another way.
Using Romeo and Juliet as their starting point, apprentices are adapting Shakespeare’s story and its messages to fit contemporary Hartford by replacing violence with break-dancing. “It’s beautiful that we can take today’s culture and mix it with something so classic,” marveled actor/dancer Brandon Valdez, 18, of East Hartford High.
“[Break-dancing] is a culture for a lot of people and Hartford is known for its violence,” Valdez continued. “But this helps us to keep the peace,” Tiger Laungpraseut, 15, of Manchester High added.
At the Charter Oak Cultural Center, students are creating a production of The Phantom Tollbooth, a children’s story that depicts the world without “rhyme and reason.” Artistic Director Olivia Davis introduces the teens to movement and mentoring younger dancers through the development, rehearsal and production of an original full-length children’s ballet. An African chant meaning “I speak. I’m listening,” is recited frequently throughout rehearsal to create order and teach respect among the dancers which contrasts with the performance’s chaotic theme.
Dancer Alejandro Bobadilla, 16, of Conard High, is thankful to be gaining responsibility and patience by mentoring younger dancers.
“Many people come here to dance because they don’t get heard at home,” Bobadilla said. “I have learned to sit back and listen.”