Many professions rely on mentorship programs to teach and provide training to those entering the field. The Peoria Art Guild makes use of this concept in its Mentor Apprenticeship Program (MAP), which allows gifted high school-aged artists to explore their talents under the direction of local professional artists.

According to PAG Director of Exhibits and Education Michelle Traver, MAP was started by John Heintzman and Susie Best in 1990 but has undergone significant changes during its 13-year history. "MAP is an eight-week program designed to give participants hands-on artistic training with professionals in the field of visual arts. MAP apprentices are exposed to a variety of artistic mediums, including, but not limited to: painting, small metals, ceramics, photography, sculpture, and printmaking. Apprentices work directly with established artists, with the experience culminating in an exhibition of the work," she said.

Traver said the apprentices also researched and studied contemporary artists with her and completed a printmaking project with Michael Mayo. "They gain practical knowledge and professional experience such as hanging exhibitions, maintaining the studios, etc. MAP also fosters life skills, such as responsibility and accountability. Additionally, the apprentices volunteer for the Kids Art Festival during the Fine Art Fair each year."

To be considered for this program, the only one of its kind in downstate Illinois, Traver said candidates must submit an application, slides of original art, letters of recommendation, and demonstrate a willingness to commit for the entire summer. Personal interviews will be added to the criteria for the MAP Summer 2004 program.

Of 23 high school applicants, 14 were chosen for the 2003 Mentor Apprenticeship Program: Brooke Beauregard (Richwoods), Chris Calvin (Manual), Brittany Feucht (Dunlap), Evan Hagan (Pekin), JR Ignacio (Woodruff), Alyssa Kindig (Metamora), David Lasley (Peoria Notre Dame), Anca Macinca (Dunlap), Kira Rohn (Limestone), Jesse Starnes (Dunlap), Anthony Thornton (Metamora), Haley Toelle (Richwoods), Joanna Weber (Brimfield), and Artist Assistant Roy Williams (Woodruff).

She said when considering apprentices, the Art Guild looks for artists who demonstrate a variety of artistic skills. "Many local high school students have more experience in two-dimensional media, such as painting and drawing, and are quite surprised to find during MAP that they also have an affinity for three-dimensional work. When making selections, we also try to consider the group as a whole, including apprentices of different ages and backgrounds."

Traver said MAP usually takes on 12 apprentices each summer-though this year 14 were chosen-to keep the group small enough for one-on-one attention. "We strive to have small student-to-artist/instructor ratios so class is effective and to provide an alternative to the typical classroom setting. Cost and limited resources are also factors. The costs of this program, which are extensive, are met exclusively through donations and grants so MAP is available to all central Illinois youth who qualify, regardless of income. The program is offered free of charge to apprentices."

The artists who take on the mentoring roll are all professional, practicing artists and are paid for their contributions. "Essentially, I select mentor artists based on their commitment to their own artistic practice and on their ability to share that knowledge with others-especially teenagers," Traver said.

The MAP 2003 Mentor Artists included metalsmith Donovan Widmer of Bloomington, studio potter Jerry McNeil, oil painter Tracey Frugoli, and photographer Ann Conver, all of Peoria.

MAP meets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. three days a week for eight weeks during the summer, she explained, and each mentor works with the apprentices for two weeks, while additional sessions are scheduled for professional development. "The apprentices are required to do research on contemporary artists, but the only ’homework’ beyond that is the completion of their own artistic projects. The apprentices spent many hours working in the studios here at the Peoria Art Guild beyond the scope of the scheduled program, which says a lot about the opportunity being a great motivator and about the dedication of the apprentices," she said.

Traver said MAP is an eye-opening experience for many of the apprentices. "The most exciting part for me is that each of the apprentices potentially finds their own path as artists. For example, Apprentice Anthony Thornton said, ’Before entering the program, I was creating pieces with little or no meaning behind them. MAP helped define a clear sense of what I wanted to do-channel social, political, and cultural issues through my art pieces.’ Alyssa Kindig learned a different lesson, saying, ’It’s okay for me to continue to develop my focus of horses since that’s what I love to do.’ Some apprentices also find out they have a great interest in gallery work or art history they previously weren’t aware of."

The best part about the program is the incredibly nurturing environment that’s created for budding artists and the fact that the apprentices learn a lot from each other, as well as from the PAG staff and the mentor artists, Traver said. "The apprentices are so enthusiastic about the opportunity that they strive to do their very best."

The culmination of the program, the MAP Exhibit, will be shown this year from November 21 to December 6 at the Peoria Art Guild Beste Library. "The exhibit features the best works created during this summer’s program. The apprentices spent their final days working with the Art Guild’s exhibit staff to critique their own work and choose their strongest pieces for the show," Traver said.

For more information about the MAP program or exhibit, call 671-1090. AA!