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Jose Uribe (right) helps children make puppets at Walker Square Park. (PHOTO: Mya Bennet)

A.W.E. Truck Studio gives interns a path to career in art

Donning a bright yellow hat in the middle of Burnham Park sits Kelsey Calvin, 19, working with three young boys. Smiling, Calvin readjusts her black-rimmed glasses and gently teaches the boys about stop-motion animation, as they look on intently.

Calvin, a college-level intern at Artists Working in Education (A.W.E.), works with young children in the Summer Truck Studio program.

Running from June 26 to Aug. 4, the Truck Studio brings four vans with art supplies to 18 Milwaukee County parks and playgrounds Monday through Friday from noon to 3 p.m.

The Truck Studio program uses books and hands-on learning to engage children and teach art history and visual art. A.W.E. accomplishes this task with a lead artist, and paid high school- and college-level interns.

"Working for A.W.E started out rocky, but I can honestly say that I have grown so much as an artist and as a young adult," said Calvin. "I didn't think it was feasible to make a career out of art until A.W.E. shared the many career paths art can take you."

A.W.E. interns are introduced to careers in monthly meetings with the MPS Arts Internship Program in conjunction with the Truck Studio. The MPS program brings high school interns to multiple sites such as the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, where interns can interact with professional artists. Interns also learn more about potential careers in art when they meet with professional artists who work for A.W.E.

Raised on the far North Side of Milwaukee, Calvin graduated from Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where she studied visual art. Calvin learned about A.W.E. through the school.

"Working with children helped me get out of a space where I thought art had to look a certain way," said Calvin.

She credits her growth in social skills, development of meaningful relationships and knowledge of art to A.W.E.

Funded by the Zilber Family Foundation, Northwestern Mutual and Milwaukee County Parks, A.W.E. is a nonprofit organization that seeks to bring visual arts to schools, parks and communities. A.W.E. aims to open the creative minds of youth while developing their curiosity and confidence.

The Summer Truck Studio Program is one of three programs A.W.E. operates as part of the organization's 19th annual summer of free art, along with the Artist in Residence program and Milwaukee Public Library drop-in story time.

Connecting with shy children at the Summer Truck Studio Program helped Calvin decide that she wanted to have an impact on children through art. From there, she recognized her passion for animation.

"A.W.E really helped me decide that I wanted to work in animation," Calvin said. "Working as an intern helped me gain professional skills and the professional language needed in the field," she added.

Mya Bennet, a college-level intern from Mount Mary University, also found personal and artistic growth through A.W.E.

"Before working as an intern, I would take all of the art classes my high school and UWM provided just to learn more and get better at art, but I really didn't think there were valuable careers or even any careers available in art until A.W.E. exposed me to them," said Bennet.

Bennet always wanted to study psychology; working with A.W.E. pushed her to pursue a career in art therapy.

"Working with kids at the parks really solidified my choice of careers, and it made me realize that art can be more than a hobby," added Bennet.

Jose Uribe, a 17-year-old high school intern from Carmen Schools of Science and Technology South Campus, said the internship solidified his interest in working to bring the community together through art projects such as murals.

After developing an interest in art at age 5, Uribe participated in the Truck Studio program at Burnham Park when he was 9.

"From then to now, I have taken every art class available to me and participated in a community mural project," he said.

Uribe believes working with art and the community creates lasting bonds.

"I remember being so happy when a girl named Evelyn came up to me at the end of the day and was so thankful and happy that we were at the park and shared art with her."

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