NEA Arts Magazine

Drawing Positive Conclusions

Ryman Arts's Saturday Studio Classes for Young Artists


Ryman Arts students

Ryman Arts students benefit from the opportunity to work with peers who are as dedicated as they are. Photo courtesy of Ryman Arts.

On any Saturday from September to May, you may find a focused group of teenagers rendering a still life in an University of Southern California art studio or sketching taxidermied animals at the nearby Natural History Museum. These students are just a few of the approximately one thousand students who have taken part in Ryman Arts's signature Saturday studio classes for high school students since 1990.

Launched with 12 youth artists, today the program annually serves approximately 300 students from 80 Los Angeles-area high schools. During each nearly four hour session, the apprentice artists work on different drawing techniques with a master teaching artist and a teaching assistant, often a program alumnus. Each semester also features visiting artists and field trips to sites such as the Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena, which opened early to allow the students to draw from its Old Masters collection. "It's really phenomenal, you know, to be sitting there almost alone [drawing a Degas] and talking about it with your teacher," said Executive Director Diane Brigham.Oe young artists also receive college and career counseling, including portfolio and resume reviews and career days featuring guest speakers from various creative industries.

Brigham suggested that the students also gain vital life skills through the program. "I think the young artists in this program develop really strong work ethics. they develop a kind of self-discipline that generates self-confidence."

The program doesn't end at high school graduation. Alumni are invited to networking events and can participate in professional development workshops. One notable alumnus, Oscar Magallanes, a graphic designer for the City of Los Angeles, serves on Ryman's Board of Directors and is Chair of the Alumni Assocation. Brigham said, "Oscar has been so articulate about how [Ryman Arts] completely turned around his life. He grew up, as he describes, in the barrio and felt like he had no options. But he was pretty good at art, and in his case a school administrator said, 'Let's get you back into school and get you in a program that's going to capitalize on your skills here.' So he got involved with us, and now he's on our Board and he has become quite successful."

Brigham stated that the NEA's support not only allows the program to be offered free of charge, but also helps to provide the students with free art materials. "[The students receive] these tackle boxes that have their basic art supplies. And there's always somebody who bursts into tears. One of our summer interns explained why: 'I can't tell you what it is like to get something that has your name on it that is only yours. I am not using a pencil or a paintbrush that 300 other kids at my high school use, and it's down to the nub. This says that you respect me.'"