You can see a lot of our city from the third floor galleries in the Cincinnati Art Museum — the county jail, the pointed rooftops of Over-the-Rhine, the squared towers tagged with the names and logos of Cincinnati's largest corporations and the red stones of City Hall. And this summer, from within one of those emptied galleries, 16 teenagers and five artists and writers hunched over folding tables writing and inking the events that shaped our world as a thick brown haze infected the view.
ArtWorks, arguably the city's most successful art-based job-training program, partnered with the Cincinnati Art Museum to create a space for young people to learn about freedom of the press and editorial ethics.
Wrapping up its eighth summer recently, nearly 150 apprentices in 11 projects left ArtWorks armed with not only practical work skills — promptness, the ability to follow instructions and produce real work product — but also with validation as working artists.
One of the projects, Editorial Ink, allowed students to slow down and look at their city, their world and themselves from new perspectives. It was inspired by the museum's The Editorial Eye exhibit hanging through Oct. 12.
Every day, talented kids ages 14-18 who otherwise might have been scooping ice cream, drawing caricatures of tourists for peanuts at Paramount's King's Island, fingering Play Station 2 or making a ruckus at local pools instead snapped open daily papers from around the country. And they were paid to do so, thanks to local corporate support.
Some of these funders — like Convergys — even came under fire from the apprentices, who documented their take on current events in editorials and cartoons.
The professionals who came together to teach these young people included renowned political artist Thom Shaw; CityBeat columnist Kathy Y. Wilson; UC College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning graduate Ramsey Ford; Northen Kentucky University comic artist Mike Maydak; and myself, a Clark Montessori English teacher.
Together, we not only pored over headlines from The Village Voice, The Onion, The New York Times, The Cincinnati Enquirer and CityBeat, but we dissected and followed the stories themselves.
For many apprentices, this ritual reading was a first-time experience. What they didn't know about, we discussed, researched and figured out.
They worked hard — six hours a day drafting, sketching, refining and revising. The apprentices learned writing and inking skills, and they learned to care about what was happening around them.
Then they learned how to talk back — to write and draw to make a difference. We were on high, amid the clipped gardens of Eden Park, able to hone editorial perspectives on the everyday workings of the city, the nation and the world.
Here you'll find opinions on issues from Northside resident and tavern shooter Hal McKinney to Saddam Hussein, from the freedom of teen fashions to Cincinnati's homeless. You'll find out that teens get it.
A panel of CityBeat editors assembled to pick a selection of cartoons and columns, eliminating myself and co-teacher Wilson from choosing favorites, resulting in the best of the best. (Go here to view the Editorial Cartoons.)
All hail the teens.
The ArtWorks teaching staff will be featured in a group show Oct. 4 at the ArtWorks Gallery, 811 Race St., downtown. Editorial Ink apprentices will have a group show there in January.