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ACT apprentice Ana: Happiness inspired through art

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Artists Creating Together announces 2018 Apprentice Program featuring Apprentice Ana.
Apprentice Ana

Apprentice Ana /Madi Schmit

About Artists Creating Together

Artists Creating Together empowers individuals with disabilities to learn, grow, and celebrate through the arts. ACT provides art and creative expression programming that enriches the lives of people with and without disabilities in every corner of West Michigan.


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/Madi Schmit

Artists Creating Together (ACT) is proud to announce the 2018 cohort of young adults in our Apprenticeship program. Launched in October of 2016, the program has been a way to take highly motivated and creative artists with disabilities and provide for them an intensive and diverse art class. This school year, ten apprentices have been chosen for the program based on their interest and dedication to art.

Teaching Artist Becky Baker oversees this group of artists and creates an environment to fuel their creativity. Her calm and encouraging nature blends well with the soothing music twinkling in the background of each session. During this time, Becky encourages the artists to explore their strengths and interests, giving them time to work on their own personal projects. Some students sketch and paint, others string beads and crochet, and others become inspired with the many art supplies that are at their disposal around the room.

The class gives students a diverse insight into the art world. It exposes the students to arts administration, professional development, artistic training, and experiential learning. The students in this program have expressed interest in making art a career, so the experience gained in this program gives them to tools to pursue that dream. They learn important facets of being an artist, like writing artist statements, titling and displaying their work, and marketing their art. Not only are students encouraged to see art as a viable line of work, but the different art lessons and focus on their personal work encourage them to strengthen the skills and talent they already possess.

Looking around the room of Apprentices on a Thursday morning in February, they were hard at work preparing for ACTion Art—an exhibit taking place in the Grand Rapids Art Museum Education Center, hosted by ACT. At the exhibit,  artists will be able to showcase and sell their work March 27-29, 2018.

All was quiet as I approached Apprentice Ana while she was busy at work with a glue stick. I peeked over her shoulder to see what she was working on and was happy to see her creating a brightly colored collage. She was gluing pictures down and using paint to brighten the image. I leaned in to tell her I really liked what she was making and she gave me one of her priceless smiles.  

The one thing anyone can say about Ana is she is always making people happy. Quiet as she may be while she works, she will pipe up with a radiant smile and spread joy wherever she goes. Ana’s artwork is a direct reflection of this. Her collages are filled with purples,blues, and yellows, sprinkled with words like happiness and brave, and complemented with sweet dogs and smiling people.  

It is no surprise then that her art is influenced by things that make most people happy. I inquired about her love of animals and her face lit up. She talked to me about dogs and pointed out the pictures of puppies that she really likes. It is clear that she has a soft spot for the little furry friends. I asked her if she had a dog and she enthusiastically replied, “Chihuahua!”  Looking at other pieces of her work, you will find hearts and love, sugar and spice, and everything nice. You’ll also find apples. Ana is known for painting pictures of apples as much as she is hearts and flowers.

Beyond collages, Ana really enjoys using paint on canvas. She incorporates vibrant colors with flowers and vivid backgrounds to create art that seems to live beyond their two dimensional state. There is an abstract nature to her art as well, with multicolor backgrounds, geometrical shapes, and flowers layered to create a final image. Her art is as energetic and lively as she is. On one canvas in particular I noticed her using a lot of pink. When asked what her favorite color is, Ana was excited to exclaim, “Pink!”

I asked Ana if she has enjoyed being an ACT Apprentice and I got the biggest smile yet. “Yes!” she replied. She loves being here, and from the smile on her face, and the ones she creates around her, the class is a happier place because of her.

Interview and story by Haley Wagner, Writing and Content Development Intern at ACT  

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