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Art camp helps teens paint their futures

ST. PAUL -- Anna Shewmaker had a problem: How should she blend the swath of cobalt teal acrylic paint into the ultramarine blue next to it? The afternoon sun blazed against the side of the ArtScraps building, and Shewmaker's section of the mural ...

Art Camp
ArtStart summer interns paint a public mural at ArtScraps on St. Clair Avenue in St. Paul.(AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Chris Polydoroff)

ST. PAUL -- Anna Shewmaker had a problem: How should she blend the swath of cobalt teal acrylic paint into the ultramarine blue next to it?

The afternoon sun blazed against the side of the ArtScraps building, and Shewmaker's section of the mural was drying -- fast.

"Use that big scrub brush I was using," said artist and mentor Armando Gutierrez G. "Mix in some water, and scrub over it."

The advice worked; blues blended.

It was just one moment of crisis -- and education -- that came as Gutierrez worked with more than a dozen teenagers on a 56-by-10-foot mural as part of a local art group's "Signature" arts mentorship program.

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Capstone

The class is a capstone, of sorts, in a summer series of art camps by nonprofit ArtStart for preschoolers to 16-year-olds. This five-week course runs students through the ins and outs of being a professional artist: meeting with a client (in this case ArtStart's retail outlet, ArtScraps, which was in need of a new mural), brainstorming ideas, presenting concepts and following through with the project. The teens had to apply for their positions, answering solicitations such as, "Explain how you will use what you learn in the Signatures Mentorship program" and "Describe how/why art is important in your life."

They come from all over -- St. Paul, Minnetonka, Minneapolis, Lino Lakes -- and have to wake as early as 7 a.m. to make it to their job on time.

Each is paid $100 for five weeks of work -- the first week in training to be an arts educator for younger children, the next three weeks working on the mural and with kids, and the final week working in ArtScraps. The program is funded in part by the Beim Foundation, the McNeely Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation and the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council.

"They'll learn the grant-writing process, how to work with the community, how to work side by side with the artists," said ArtStart administrative assistant, Cindy Smith.

She said the artwork on the side of the ArtScraps building is more than a project to keep youth busy during the summer.

"The last mural was out there 10 years," she said, "so this one will be out there awhile."

In the sun, the kids bounced to "That's Not My Name" by the Ting Tings and rendered Earth in space, with a blue wave stretching between it and the moon. A sprocket -- representing technology -- floated between.

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Rosalia Amato Bauer, 11, laid paint on the wave. She, too, struggled with blending.

"He (Gutierrez) kind of tells us what we're doing wrong, and we have to figure out how to fix it," she said.

She wasn't complaining.

"Part of this is learning what it's like to do art as a job -- ArtScraps is our client," she said.

Sam Porter, 13, who was organizing the dozens of tubes of paint, is allergic to paint, he said.

Why not find a camp where you just swim, then?

"I just wanted to get the experience with art, make some friends, have fun," he said.

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Summer interns
Anna Shewmaker, 14, is one of about a dozen ArtsStart summer interns who are creating a public mural at ArtScraps on St. Clair Avenue in St. Paul. The class is a capstone, of sorts, in a summer series of art camps by nonprofit ArtStart for preschoolers to 16-year-olds. This five-week course runs students through the ins and outs of being a professional artist: meeting with a client ArtScraps, brainstorming ideas, presenting concepts and following through with the project.(AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Chris Po...

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