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Positively Minnesota: Nonprofit Teaching Youth Life Through Art

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A north Minneapolis nonprofit center that teaches youth life through art is producing some surprising results.

Since 1995, Juxtaposition Arts has been raising the bar for art curriculum, giving students in lackluster schools an outlet for artistic expression.

Since 2004, the group has invested more than $1 million in improving the facilities. They have a long-range plan in place to build a new state-of-the-art campus building and renovate the current space, which will cost about $8.2 million.

"It's a pretty unique program that doesn't really exist elsewhere in Minneapolis or nationally," said instructor Nate Young. "One of the things we strive for is to show students that art isn't just a hobby, it's a way that you can make money and have a job."

Juxtaposition Arts Feature
(credit: CBS)

The process begins with an after-school, Visual Arts Literacy Training (VALT) program, which pairs students ages 8-21 with Juxtaposition's creative social enterprise studios. The program is free to youth participants with priority given to those who live, go to school, or are otherwise connected to north Minneapolis.

Once students have mastered VALT (usually after approximately 72 hours), they may apply for a year-round paid position as an artist apprentice. Applicants choose from four different lab areas: Contemporary Arts, Environmental Design, Graphic Design and Textile Design.

"Each of the programs has professional working artists teaching the students in more of a mentor-mentee learning environment," Young said. "The lead artist is working hands-on with them, and the student is learning as they do real projects."

Inside a converted apartment above Juxtaposition's gallery (where students work is sold at a reasonable price), a group of graphic design apprentice artists are busy working on Mac computers. All four are high school students from north Minneapolis, ages 14-17.

Juxtaposition Arts Feature 2
(credit: CBS)

This group, which receives graphic design experience in their high school art classes, is now working on logos and brands that will be splashed across grocery store facades and college students' T-shirts.

"They have done work for the University of Minnesota, Lunds and the West Broadway Farmers Market," Young said. "It's really uncommon, they have portfolios at the age of 14 -- I didn't even know what the hell I wanted to do until I was 22."

Aside from artistic expression, Juxtaposition also prepares north side youth for creative careers, with staggering success. Alumni have gone on to higher education (including Harvard) and earned several scholarships to both liberal arts colleges and art schools.

About two dozen of their teacher-artists, including Young, are former students returning to pay-it-back to the next generation.

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