Young Artist at Work + Positivity = YAAWSITIVITY from home. With schools closing, a racial reckoning and an election, the whole team had much to express. These young people made art to process their experience and got paid to do it. To speak more about the first-hand apprentice experience, I reached out to a very positive 2020 YAAW Apprentice, Ma’laya Edwards. What does positivity mean to you? Positivity overall like if you show positivity to other people, that support and love blocks out all the negativity and lifts up one another. How can art be a vehicle for positivity? It has been one year since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and the last twelve months have been grueling. From the fear of uncertainty to the unrelenting news cycle, to the new normal, we’ve adapted. In times that are so grim, we savor every crumb of joy we can get. People find ways to feel a sense of control like baking bread or writing a pen pal. When the entire world has been disrupted, taking time to be thankful is the simplest way to gain perspective. Practicing gratitude daily is an act of self-preservation. In this time of uncertainty, I’ve remained grateful to retain employment with an organization that helps make Toledo a more fun place to live. The Arts Commission works to build a creative and cultural community in Toledo, inspire vibrancy in our neighborhoods, and to celebrate life through art. The Arts Commission promotes art through programs like Art in Public Places, Art Loop, Creative Placemaking, Artist Services, Young Artists at Work (YAAW) and the Momentum festival. All of these programs bring people together to celebrate art. Almost overnight, gathering was prohibited to prevent viral spread. Every industry had to innovate to meet the safety guidelines. That’s what artists do—get creative. In lieu of the Art Loop events, curated Art Boxes were made available for people to take home and try techniques from local artists. The Momentum Festival shifted to a safe and discoverable format to encourage Toledoans to explore— including new murals in partnership with Art in Public Places. Artist Services quickly pivoted to offer artists emergency relief grants for those who lost income. With support from the City of Toledo and Lucas County, Jordan Buschur meticulously coordinated the granting of over $425,000 to area artists in need. Talk about making lemonade. Positivity can seem like a nonrenewable resource, but it’s really more like a contagion. By summer, it still wasn’t absolutely safe to work in person and Young Artists at Work had to stray from its model too. Since 1994, the Arts Commission has hired teenagers each summer to make art, make friends, and make money. For the first time in 26 years, the YAAW program had to go virtual. With help from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library, each apprentice was able to work from home with iPads. Even though this was the first remote program, the apprentices were able to create a 65-ft photography installation, a mural design and a portrait series to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the formation of The League of Women Voters, and the Ratification of the 19th Amendment. This was the first job for many of the apprentices and the first time any of us were working Art is a vehicle for positivity because in art there is no right or wrong and you can’t judge people. Everyone expresses their feelings, thoughts and opinions through art. In my opinion, all art is positivity because it expresses that person whether it’s through paper, music, or dance. Expressing yourself in any way is always positive because everyone needs to get out whatever they have inside. Can you talk about how the 2020 YAAW program was a positive experience? It allowed people from all different cultures and regions to get together and do something that they all have in common. YAAW allows you to meet new people, share thoughts, discoveries, and techniques. We all accepted each other. I really felt at home in that program because there was no judging and everyone was accepting of each other’s art. I was hesitant about applying because of the pandemic, but it was still enjoyable and creative. Is there anything you want people to know about you, YAAW or positivity? Positivity is essential in life. Always try to keep a positive attitude. Art heals us on an individual level and beautifies our city and this creates a hopeful future. It’s a positivity butterfly effect. When we see that someone has created art in a place, we care about it and feel it’s cared for. We can do this together on a personal level and a civic level. Everyone walks away from the summer with something different. Some teens build confidence in their art skills, find their voice as a leader, or make a dear friend. Young Artists at Work has evolved over the years, but almost anyone who goes through the program can tell you, it’s a fun job that shows the arts as a reasonable career and it’s an overall formative and positive experience. To view YAAW artwork or for more information, please visit theartscommission.org. Artwork by: Dylan Smith Page 9

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