CITY OF NEW BRITAIN, CT
Mayor Lucian J. Pawlak

Summer Learning in Arts and Media (SLAM)

The Summer Learning in Arts and Media (SLAM) Program is a six (6) week educational training program designed to expose youth to career opportunities in the arts. Youth are not only exposed to the arts, but they received six weeks of intensive career skills training in one of the five clusters offered, namely; graphic design, poetry, mask making, painting and three-dimensional design. These clusters vary on a yearly basis.

During the 1998 program year. the SLAM Program served 66 youth, ages 14-21, who reside within the City of New Britain. The great majority of youngsters were 14 and 15 years old and, for many, this was their first paid employment experience. The program, through the recruiting and selection program, reached out to those youth considered at-risk and who therefore, face significant barriers to employment. Risk factors included youth who were basic skills deficient challenged with a disability, were pregnant or already parents, or who lived in a single parent family supported by public assistance.

The education training facility used for the program was Slade Middle School, where we used five large classrooms for all 66 youth. Participants were assigned to one of the five art clusters mentioned above based on their area of skill and interest and remained in that cluster completing individual and group projects for the entire six week program. Each cluster offered training and experience in that particular subject, following a set of goals and objectives specific to their chosen area. The Program Director sought out and hired local professional artists with expertise in each of the five cluster areas to work side by side with participants on their projects. Students of the graphic design cluster worked on a logo for SLAM and illustrated the poetry anthology produced by their fellow participants. Participants in the mask making cluster not only learned about mask making in a multi cultural context, but also actually produced several masks for display at the end of the year reception. Students in the painting cluster created finished pieces using a variety of paint media including tempera, watercolor and acrylics. Students in the poetry cluster received training on how to translate a visual idea to written form, exploring the varying styles of the poetry including rhyme, meter and verse. The three-dimensional design cluster created sculptures using a variety of found objects including wood and metals.

In addition to the artwork done in clusters, all participants received 45 hours of academic instruction from two- (2) State certified Connecticut teachers over the course of the program. Daily, each student received 1.5 hours of academic enrichment, which was designed complement the cluster training with a strong emphasis in math skills. Math skills are essential to an artist since he/she must be able to measure materials accurately and calculate the cost of materials when pricing and marketing their products.

Participants received instruction in the "world of work" and were observed throughout the program to see how well they not only comprehended the employment issues, but how well they followed through with good work practices such as arriving promptly, providing notice of planned absence and attending to the tasks at hand.

Participants went on field trips over the course of the summer to galleries, artists studios and museums. These trips definitely enhanced the program, providing an opportunity for the students to see first hand what possibilities exist when choosing a profession in the arts.

The successes of the program were numerous. Once again we enjoyed the partnership between the Mid-Connecticut Workforce Development, the Consolidated School District of New Britain, the Human Resources Agency of New Britain and the New Britain Mayor's Office. Having these groups as partners opened the door to a wealth of resources, this enhanced the opportunities for participants. "The in-kind use of Slade School and New Britain High School was an invaluable resource; it would have been very difficult or costly to secure a facility that could accommodate such an unusual program. In addition, since the school was the site for the New Britain summer school, the SLAM participants were able to access bus transportation and the free meals available to all summer school participants.

The Mayor's Office solicited support from corporate sponsors in the form of dollars or in-kind donations of goods and services. Dattco, a local bus company, provided free transportation services so students could visit off-site locations relatives to their learning experience.

Additionally, local corporations and foundations to enhance the program and enrich the experience of the students awarded $9,000 to the program. The end of the program reception was hosted by the Mayor's Office at City Hall and was attended by well over two hundred people. Participants displayed their artwork and participants in the poetry cluster read pieced of their work.

All in all, the program went extremely well, generating a great deal of publicity, public interest and community support. Next year, we hope to further expand the program allowing more youth to explore career opportunities in the arts. There was only one major obstacle to implementation in the 1998 SLAM Program. Since the program doubled in size from the previous year (33 youth served n 1997 vs. 66 youth served in 1998), we needed more artists consultants to work with our youth and we were either unable to locate a full complement of professionals or they were too costly. Specifically, we found that most poets charge $15.00 per hour for their workshops and this expense was too prohibitive.

The following is a list of funding sources used to sustain the SLAM Program; Mid-Connecticut Workforce Development, Hartford Courant, Hartford Courant Foundation and Citizens Bank. The funds provided by the Mid-Connecticut Workforce Development allowed us to leverage the dollars from our corporate sponsors. The list accounts only for actual cash received and does not represent the dollar value of the in-kind donations of the facility and transportation service.

The SLAM Program truly embodied the notion of contextual learning. Youth were provided with a unique opportunity to practice what they were learning from critically recognizing professional artists. They didn't just study art and the profession of artist; they produced artwork in ways that surprised them. In the short six weeks of the program, they not only learned through a structured curriculum various forms of art, but they experienced first hand the experience of being an artist.

This employment experience culminated in a gallery type reception, where their work was hung, displayed or recited before an audience. The "gallery show" mimicked what artists experience as part of their profession. The entire program was curriculum based; the Program Director had a set of overall goals and objectives for the total program, but also prepared goals and objectives for each of the five clusters and the academic enrichment component. Students had to work cooperatively in groups and produce a group project. Students were taught that the success of the group was dependent on each individual's efforts. The academic component was designed to reinforce concepts they were learning in their cluster, but also provided remedial support in basic math and writing skills. The teachers and staff measured each student's progression of skills throughout the program, providing the locate a full complement of professionals or they were too costly. Specifically, we found that most poets charge $15.00 per hour for their workshops and this expense was too prohibitive.

The following is a list of funding sources used to sustain the SLAM Program; Mid- Connecticut Workforce Development, Hartford Courant, Hartford Courant Foundation and Citizens Bank. The funds provided by the Mid-Connecticut Workforce Development allowed us to leverage the dollars from our corporate sponsors. The list accounts only for actual cash received and does not represent the dollar value of the in-kind donations of the facility and transportation service.

The SLAM Program truly embodied the notion of contextual learning. Youth were provided with a unique opportunity to practice what they were learning from critically recognizing professional artists. They didn't just study art and the profession of artist; they produced artwork in ways that surprised them. In the short six weeks of the program, they not only learned through a structured curriculum various forms of art, but they experienced first hand the experience of being an artist. This employment experience culminated in a gallery type reception, where their work was hung, displayed or recited before an audience. The "gallery show" mimicked what artists experience as part of their profession.

The entire program was curriculum based; the Program Director had a set of overall goals and objectives for the total program, but also prepared goals and objectives for each of the five clusters and the academic enrichment component. Students had to work cooperatively in groups and produce a group project. Students were taught that the success of the group was dependent on each individual's efforts. The academic component was designed to reinforce concepts they were learning in their cluster, but also provided re-mediation in basic math and writing skills. The teachers and staff measured each student's progression of skills throughout the program, providing the Director with weekly evaluations on each participant. Students had to document Director with weekly evaluations on each participant.


 
 


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