May 18th, Woonsocket, RI—On May 1st, a new group of young artists started their first day—or rather evening—of work as part of Riverzedge Arts’ new Arts Education and Training Evening (AETE) program.
The AETE program expands the hours and resources of Riverzedge Arts’ flagship AET programing. Designed in partnership with DCYF, the program aims to address cycles of poverty and maltreatment long affecting Woonsocket and surrounding areas.
According to the 2022 RI Kids’ Count Factbook, Woonsocket is home to the second-largest number of youth at the RI Training School, the third-largest number of youth on probation, and has the highest rate of child maltreatment in the state. In short, says Riverzedge Arts Executive Director Kristen Williams, “Our youth are being put in dangerous situations, and they’re responding with the only tools available to them.”
Teens in the AETE program, on the other hand, are paid an hourly wage to work alongside professional artists in Riverzedge Arts’ Print Studio, where they’ll use the same tools and develop the same skills as expert screen printers. Working 12 hours each week, the teens complete both grant-funded and commercial projects. And this gives teens the chance to build credible portfolios in the field and establish themselves as professionals by the time they graduate high school.
“This is a pilot of what we expect to become a much larger program,” says Williams, “which will eventually offer evening hours in our Graphic Design, Media Arts, and Public Art Studios as well.”
As part of Riverzedge Arts’ suite of wraparound support services, youth in the program also have access to academic tutors, licensed mental health counselors, and hunger relief services to help ensure they have everything they need to be successful young adults both inside and outside of the studios.
Founded in 2002 by artists, youth development professionals, and community leaders, the mission of Riverzedge Arts is to use innovative applied and work-based strategies to teach art, design, and critical thinking to the youth of northern RI, putting our participants as well as our community on a path to economic and cultural sustainability. To learn more, visit www.riverzedgearts.org.
The Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) is charged with implementing a statewide network of supports to protect vulnerable children and families. The Department develops, oversees, and evaluates programs which provide opportunities for children to reach their full potential. DCYF has three major operational divisions: Children’s Behavioral Health Services, Child Welfare (including child protective services, family services, and permanency support), and Juvenile Corrections (including the Rhode Island Training School and juvenile probation). The Department supports nearly 3,000 children and their families both in the community and in DCYF care, and indirectly serves thousands more through community-based programs.