Changing the Lives of Toledo Teens: Young Artists At Work is accepting applications until March 24

Calling all creative teens: If you’re looking for a life-changing summer job, The Arts Commission is accepting applications for its annual Young Artists At Work (YAAW) program until March 24.

Every year since 1994, The Arts Commission hires at least 40 area teens for a paid apprenticeship program. Participants work with professional artists and collaborate on art projects and connect to the community. Past projects have included murals, performance art, designing websites and creating work for sale.

“Everything we give back to the community and and contributing through local art,” said Ava Whitson, a YAAW alumna.

Whitson participated in the program the past two summers. In 2015, she worked on designing a mural for a local boxing club. Last year, her group focused on sculpture and put together a performance.


“The goal was to tell a story of Toledo by starting with history and incorporating local art to show where we came from and where we are now,” she said. Her group made a video corresponding to the project and also performed at the 3rd Thursday Art Loop.

Whitson said she had always been interested in art, but she didn’t have a lot of experience before applying to YAAW. The application process, which involves an interview and putting together a portfolio of work, made her nervous.

“During my first interview, I was really scared because I didn’t have anything, I didn’t know what I was doing,” she said. “I was really intimidated.”

But Whitson learned the portfolio requirement is not for program directors to judge the applicant’s artistic skill, but to help determine their experience level and see what they have to learn.


“The instructors are all very experienced. They’re people who have been [working in the field] a long time,” Whitson said. “They’re always very well-rounded in what they do and very willing to pass [their knowledge] on to you.”

YAAW apprentices work Monday through Friday for six weeks, from June 26 until August 4. The job pays minimum wage, and apprentices are expected to not be absent more than three days. Aside from the creative skills learned, Whitson said there are other benefits.

“The program exposes you to new things,” she said. “I didn’t really know what I was doing or what I was really interested in. After YAAW, it encouraged me to put myself out there and experience more. Now I’m planning to go to college to study fine art, and they put me on that path.”

Teens ages 14-18 interested in applying can meet a YAAW coordinator and apply in person Monday, March 20 at the South Branch of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library or Tuesday, March 21 at the Kent Branch, from 3:30-5pm. each day. They can also apply online at

“Just go for it,” Whitson said, encouraging anyone on the fence about applying. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it or not, but it completely changed my life and put me on the path to my future. Plus, you get to meet people from other schools and people you’re going to remain friends with. There’s nothing to lose.”

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