Young Artist Apprenticeship Program
“Blaffer Gallery, the Art Museum of the University of Houston, has a foot in both the art and university worlds. When seeking a solution to connect the gallery more closely with its surrounding community, the museum devised a program that reflects its dual allegiances. The gallery’s Young Artist Apprenticeship Program (YAAP) simultaneously promotes the artistic development and higher education of its teenaged participants.
YAAP is an after-school program that runs four days a week for six weeks. Each semester, the gallery selects a dozen apprentices—sophomores, juniors, and seniors from nearby high schools. These students undergo a rigorous application process and must demonstrate both artistic skill and motivation.
“We don’t have the resources to reach massive amounts of people. But what we can provide is an intensive experience for a small number of students who will benefit tremendously,” explains Curator of Education Katherine Veneman.
Gallery staff work with the program’s two artist mentors to develop a curriculum centered on the museum’s current contemporary art exhibition. Under the mentors’ guidance, apprentices tackle a series of increasingly complex assignments designed to encourage them to use the exhibition’s themes as starting points for their own artistic explorations. The apprentices work in a dedicated, on-campus studio, where they have access to a wide array of media. The process motivates participants to push their artistic boundaries, creating striking works that are displayed in a public show at the Blaffer Gallery.
Through their program involvement, apprentices realize that art “can convey ideas that are powerful and socially relevant and important to everyone, not just them,” Veneman explains. At the same time, students gain experience in working on projects that require a sustained focus in a collaborative environment—skills essential not only for artistic achievement, but also for college success.
“Whether or not art is the ultimate career path, the Apprenticeship Program exposes the students to the intense level of dedication required of higher education and encourages them to contemplate their educational destinies,” points out Blaffer Gallery Director Claudia Schmuckli. As an incentive to make college part of that destiny, partial scholarships are awarded each semester to top apprentices.”
“When we first see the students, they are hesitant to engage with us, each other, and their work. But by the end of the course, we see them transform into individuals who can confidently interact with the world around them.”Audrey Herber Artist Mentor