Spotlight On: Studio SnapShots!

NeighborhoodStudiosIconAlthough Neighborhood Studios ended its fifteenth summer last Friday, we couldn’t help but share with you one last report on these amazing, innovative and creative Greater Hartford teens.

Last Monday all five of our Neighborhood Studios came together at the Center for Contemporary Culture at the Hartford Public Library for the first ever Studio SnapShots!  In order to give all 68 apprentices a chance to see inside each of the five studios, we thought what better way than for all apprentices to share with each other!  Over the course of the summer, each Studio worked together to create a ten minute presentation of their summer Studio experience.  We left the guidelines wide open in terms of format—encouraging teamwork and creativity!

As a paid apprenticeship program, Neighborhood Studios is not only about learning an art, but also about empowering students with the necessary professional skills needed as they set off for college, internships and their next job.  The Career Skills sessions accomplished this in a variety of ways including learning to write a resume, practicing the art of communication and networking, and preparing for the financial reality of going to college and managing your money.  Beyond these tangible skills, today’s workforce requires the softer skills of creative problem solving, collaboration and civic responsibility.

Studio SnapShots was really designed to strengthen these soft skills, which just like the technical aspects take time to learn and need opportunities to grow.  To participate in this final Career Skills session, apprentices had a chance to collaborate with their Studio mates in preparation, and on the day of the event they supported the work and talent of their peers from all five Hartford arts organizations.  They not only had to think about creating an engaging presentation, a common task in any professional field or educational endeavor, but also about how to be an engaged audience member, listening, viewing and supporting the creative work of their peer community.

Studio SnapShots opened with a visit from Hartford’s North End.  With twenty apprentices, Artists Collective’s Youth Jazz Orchestra presented two selections from their Studio showcase, Sweet Harlem Suite, music of the Harlem Renaissance.  These talented musicians lead with the George Gershwin jazz classic, Summertime and transitioned into a lively Latin number by Tito Puente with strong percussion, upbeat rhythm and salsa-inspired instrumentals.

From Hartford’s Asylum Hill came The Mark Twain House & Museum’s Write to the Point!  After a round robin introduction of these 13 apprentices, the audience had a chance to view photographs of all that these young writers have been up to this summer, from meeting Stephen King to interviewing the world’s strongest librarian.  While our eyes were entertained, we got to hear the professional recordings of these writers reading their own work produced with the help of WNPR’s Senior Producer Catie Talarski.

Joining us from Hartford’s Parkville neighborhoods, the Real Art Ways Eye on Video apprentices had everyone shaking in their seats as we watched eerie, scary film shorts.  The collaborative film project spun off of the 1967 classic American crime film Bonnie and Clyde directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Shot and produced within a short turn around time, these ten apprentices had to work together to create these mini-masterpieces!

Our downtown Hartford contingent began with the Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s Snap! Photography Studio.  These ten budding photographers did a back to back slide slam and artists talk as each apprentice took the microphone and shared their series of work.  As a take off from the Amistad’s summer exhibition on emancipation, each apprentice responded to the concept of “free style” reinterpreting the idea into their own visual construct touching on notions of family and DNA, social conformity, psychology, power and control, race and identity, and imagination.

From just a few walkable blocks away, Hartford Stage’s Breakdancing Shakespeare closed the show with a sneak peek at their showcase production Two Gentlemen of Verona.  As the Graduation March blared through the sound system, these fifteen emerging actors walked the audience aisles and took the stage.  With much pomp and circumstance, they performed their opening ensemble dance performance, an energetically choreographed number full of flips, spins and jumps.  Without much ado, they slipped from the liveliness of breakdancing to Shakespeare’s opening lines: “Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus: Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.”

And with that, the fifteenth Neighborhood Studio summer season comes down to a close!  We want to shout out a huge thank you to all the apprentices, Studio partners and Master Teaching Artists for contributing to the first Studio SnapShots and for making this yet another memorable Neighborhood Studios summer!