The art of growing up

The Youth Art Corps nurtures artistic talent to give teens professional polish.

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published August 10, 2007


It's an incredible feeling to express yourself through art, said Alyssa Archiletti.

But getting paid for it? Even better, said the 16-year-old from Largo.

"I think it will help me toward becoming a graphic artist, and it's kind of hard to find a job to start out with that pays you to draw," she said.

The work of Archiletti and about a dozen other aspiring young artists from Pinellas County is on display at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art for the next six weeks. The teens are part of the Youth Arts Corps, a program of Family Resources Inc. that offers art education and job training at the museum for teens ages 13 to 17.

Some of the teens were paid for their contributions through an apprenticeship program; the rest are amateur artists who produced work worthy of exhibit, said Youth Arts Corps director Mary Ann Assiff. All of the pieces are for sale, with part of the proceeds going to the artists and the rest going back into the program.

The group uses the arts as a vehicle for youth development, Assiff said.

"That's the carrot, to bring kids in to do something interesting and exciting, while we're helping them to develop," she said.

Professional artists teach the classes, which include drawing, painting, ceramics, jewelrymaking and theater. Kids learn practical skills, too, like how to put together a portfolio, show up for work on time and see projects through to completion.

"Here is a great place for them to advance their skills in art, learn how to interview for a job and learn how to build relationships like you would at a workplace," said program supervisor Rachel Stewart.

The program started a decade ago through the state Department of Juvenile Justice, with support from the arts councils of Pinellas and Hillsborough. The purpose was to use art to reach out to at-risk youth and help them make better decisions.

"The arts are incredibly therapeutic for kids," Assiff said, "particularly those going through the tumultuous times of adolescence."

Fast Facts:

The "Art in the Park" exhibit will be on display through Sept. 19 at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art, 12211 Walsingham Road, Largo. Museum admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors ages 65 and older, $4 for youth ages 7 to 18 and students with ID, free for age 6 and younger and museum members. Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays; noon to 4 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.

About the program

The Youth Arts Corps at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art is a program of Family Resources Inc. The YAC offers year-round classes in a variety of subjects, for teens ages 13 to 17. All classes are free and are taught by professional artists. For information, call 518-6833, ext. 300.