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artsJAM Gallery & Studio

The VSA Michigan artsJAM (Jobs And Mentoring) program was established in 2001, but is not currently being implemented. The program provides high school aged youth with disabilities the opportunity to experience the arts while building life and pre-vocational skills. Participants are engaged in creative dance, creative drama, vocal and instrumental music, storytelling, playwriting and poetry, photography and filmmaking, and a variety of visual arts media, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, collage, clay and found objects taught by professional artists who live and work in the community.

Activities take the form of after school classes, Mondays through Thursdays, with different arts disciplines explored each day of the week. The teaching artists model their work ethic and share with the students the journeys that they have taken to become professionals in their chosen art form. Students are engaged in creating high quality art, are encouraged to experiment and explore and make uniquely personal choices. They are engaged in assessing the aesthetic value of their work, and grow artistically by sharing their work and processes with one another. They are given advice and guidance in their career choices, the skills that they have to acquire, where they can receive further training, and how to enter the job market in their chosen arts discipline.

Consideration is given to the wide variety of work opportunities that exist in the arts, such as preparing visual artwork for exhibit, installing exhibits, production, promotion and management of the visual and performing arts. Professionals in the areas of lighting and sound design and technology, set, costume and property design and construction and make-up are brought into the program to teach the youth about their jobs in the arts industry. Students learn stage and house management, ticket sales, ushering and the other work that make theatre happen. VSA Michigan collaborates with galleries, dance, music and theatre organizations within the community to establish apprentice opportunities for artJAM students.

The artsJAM Gallery & Studio program requires a close relationship with the school district within the community in which the program is implemented. Directors of special education and counselors identify and recommend students whom they fill will benefit from the program. Close communication is maintained between these educators in the school district and the artsJAM program coordinator, so there is a flow of information regarding the students’ academic and personal growth that results from participation. From time to time students have received credit for their participation in the artsJAM program to meet the arts education requirement for high school graduation.

For more information about replicating artsJAM in your community, please contact:

Lora Frankel
(313) 970-9624