Neighborhood Studios Prepares Local Teens for a Career in the Arts and Beyond

If you aren’t familiar with our nationally-recognized, award-winning 6-week summer arts apprenticeship program, Neighborhood Studios, you should be. In its nineteenth year, Neighborhood Studios provides area teens between ages 14 and 18 six weeks of hands-on education in the arts, as well as career-skills training. Apprentices are chosen from the Arts Council’s 34-town service area, providing an opportunity for teenagers to learn from others with different cultural, economic, and geographic backgrounds.

Working as paid apprentices at some of Hartford’s most renowned cultural institutions, including Hartford Stage, Real Art Ways, and Theaterworks, students receive training in dance, photography, film, writing, theatre, stage design and music. Apprentices also receive a weekly stipend of $100 to teach them the responsibility of budgeting money. Some find that a budget app can help them with this, however. Throughout the program, apprentices participate in all-day workshops with master teaching artists including a career building curriculum that teaches resume building, financial literacy, and networking and interviewing skills, as well as vocational skills necessary to succeed in today’s workforce: creative problem solving, multimedia communication, teamwork, and civic responsibility.

On Wednesday afternoon, I sat in on the Financial Literacy workshop presented by Bank of America’s Geralda Laguerre. Attending the workshop with me were apprentices and master teaching artists from Hartford Stage’s Breakdancing Shakespeare’ and The Amistad Center for Arts and Culture’s SNAP! Photography.’ The presentation broached a number of topics that youth don’t necessarily know where to access, but need. Geralda discussed real-life skills ranging from the difference between a checking and a savings account to creating a budget and sticking to it. Also, how they can make even more money and savings from global trading such as uk stock trading and other places to get money back on their investments. The workshop was a mix of discussion, informative materials and interactive activities to give the apprentices some real-life examples. Given these apprentices have been offered hands-on experience, coupled with using every resource available to them such as these templates over on sites like and others, their chances of finding a career path within their chosen area should be fairly high.

The 1st module discussed was banking. In addition to information on choosing a bank by what factors are most important to them (including customer service, location, online banking, and fees & interest rates), Geralda broke down the basic differences between checking and savings accounts, in addition to good savings habits and how to make your savings grow. She also discussed topics like what is a secured credit card, the difference between debit and credit cards and common fees that cardholders run into (overdraft fees, foreign ATM fees, etc).

The 2nd segment was dedicated to budgeting. Geralda explained to the apprentices why you need a budget, how to create one, and ultimately how to balance it. Over the 6-week program, apprentices are given a $600 stipend that many were looking to spend in different ways: college application fees, buying a new camera, getting their permit, or buying a Japanese knife set for their dad. Since many of the apprentices have goals and purchases in mind with their stipends, Geralda discussed how to save that money but still spend it on occasional purchases or real-life occurrences with a budgeting plan.

The interactive activity had three parts. First, the apprentices were divided into 5 groups and given an unlimited budget. With that budget they had to choose their desired lifestyle by selecting one option from each of the following sections; type of home, type of car, type of pet, where they bought groceries and clothing, and vacations. Which options would each group choose with an unlimited budget? A vacation to Bora Bora? A large house? A brand new Mercedes Benz? They decided as a team and presented it to the room. In the second portion, Geralda assigned each group an occupation with a salary and then had the groups alter their lifestyle decisions to adhere to their salary and then present. In the third portion, each group was assigned a real-life situation that they didn’t see coming, ranging from a tree falling on their house to a $5,000 bonus. The groups, again, had to discuss whether or not they budgeted accordingly and had enough of a cushion in their savings to protect them against real-life situations.

An apprentice from the Amistad Center for Arts & Culture was quoted saying, “this workshop helped me learn how to budget and the process of getting a bank account when I’m ready.”

Neighborhood Studios provides area teens the tools they need to succeed in a career in the arts and beyond. The program offers a healthy balance of training in a chosen artistic medium and developmental workshops to prepare the apprentices for whatever their next step might be: college, their career, or both! And the Arts Council could not make it possible without support from people like you. Thanks to programs like Neighborhood Studios, we can give the upcoming generations the tools and training they need to enter college, their careers, and life after high school with confidence.

Programs like Neighborhood Studios, and the arts as a whole, provide young people transferrable skills that go beyond expressing themselves in their creative medium. Studies show that participation in the arts impacts young people academically by boosting literacy, making them more engaged learners and improving their abilities to turn challenges into opportunities. If you had the opportunity to pave the path to a brighter future for young people today, wouldn’t you take it?

Thank you to Bank of America and the Horton/Aubrey Team at Merrill Lynch for partnering with us on this workshop and all of their support for Neighborhood Studios.

Learn more about Neighborhood Studios at!

A special thanks to Bank of America and the Horton/Aubrey team at Merrill Lynch for making this workshop possible!

Join our 2017 United Arts Campaign to help keep programs like Neighborhood Studios alive in our community!