We all know students who love art but may not excel academically. Many of them are in low-income middle schools with scant counseling services and decreasing art budgets, and they may see few post-high school options. Without exposure to a variety of role models in creative careers encouraging them, many may be at risk of dropping out.
Cool Jobs is an innovative new program that Fresh Artists® (a Philadelphia-based nonprofit delivering art supplies and programs to school sin need) designed to toss these kids a lifeline. It addresses what we see as an urgent need by:
- introducing 600 at-risk seventh-graders to highly successful people with real jobs in the creative economy that they didn’t know existed;
- showing them accessible paths to these jobs; and
- encouraging them to stay in school and choose the best-fit high schools and colleges for pursuing their path.
Who Changed Your Path?
Cool Jobs focuses on the theme, “Some people cross your path and change your whole direction.” Research shows that many people, upon looking back on their lives, recall a dynamic adult role model who noticed them as a child, named their gifts, and sometimes, in even the subtlest of ways, suggested a novel path that they never considered. Children in low-income communities may be less apt to encounter such mentors in the creative community.
The successful entrepreneur of tomorrow will have developed twenty-first century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and imagination—all learned in a well-constructed art curriculum. The objective in Cool Jobs is to introduce kids to creative professionals who are exceptionally good at what they do and are eager to demonstrate their craft. During this process, students learn that these whiz-bang artists and designers didn’t get there alone or all at once. Finding mentors and role models was critical to their success.
Finding a Job to Love for Life
Before, during, and after the Expo, we engage student in thinking about creativity as the fuel that can propel them toward the job of their dreams. We start the conversation: Who designed the skateboard you have your eye on? What’s up with the artist who painted the mural around the corner? Why did that dog toy designer use those crazy colors when dogs are color-blind?
At Fresh Artists’ 2017 Cool Jobs Expo, students met and talked with passionate presenters; a nationally syndicated cartoonist, prop fabricators for Saturday Night Live, a fine-art conservator from the world-famous Barnes Foundation, a mural artist, an architect, a lighting designer, a toy designer, a fashion designer from Urban outfitters, a graphic designer, an executive pastry chef, a large-format digital printer, and an art therapist.
Students pick up on the passion that these fascinating people exude for their life’s work. For many young people in severely under-resourced public schools, the word “job” may not evoke a very positive image. Cool Jobs is designed to change this preconception. Students clearly got the message:
Most people [I know] have a job that they don’t like or they don’t want. I want my life to be different. I want a good job that makes me happy.—seventh-grader at Cool Jobs 2017.
What You Can Do
Check out Cool Jobs at www.freshartists.org/cooljobs. If a full Cool Jobs Expo isn’t realistic to produce in your city, you can still take a positive step to dispel the “starving artist” myth by inviting successful local artists into your classroom. Seeds you sow may not sprout in your presence, but you can rest in the confidence that you opened eyes, hearts, and minds to new, meaningful careers and exciting possibilities that may change a young person’s whole direction.
By Barbara Chandler Allen, President of Fresh Artists, and Barbara Dundon, Storyteller.
Reprinted with permission from SchoolArts Magazine. Receive $5.00 off your 1-year print and digital subscription with promo code: SACHSUP. Visit SchoolArts.com/subscribe to order.