Let me introduce you to Susan LeVay, a parent of two sons with autism. Susan first registered her boys, Jonathan and James, for ArtMix Community Arts Classes, and when they became teenagers, they became interns in the Urban Artisan program. In the beginning, they were challenged to learn many skills. When they completed the program, they had “gained confidence in themselves, pride in their work, better social skills, and a sense of accomplishment at earning a paycheck,” Susan recalls.
Created in 2001, Urban Artisans is a workforce development program, mentoring students with disabilities ages 15-22, and equipping them with transferable, pre-vocational skills through the making, marketing, and selling of artwork. Students work as a team to create art that is sold in a variety of shops. In 2015 the program received a National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award in a White House ceremony.
As Susan noted about her sons, “Through ArtMix programs they gained so many skills, skills such as arriving on time, following directions, and teamwork. I noticed that they matured and became more independent. I’m grateful for ArtMix!” Today Jonathan is 20 and James is 23. So, where are they now?
In addition to taking classes at Ivy Tech part time, James has worked at Kroger for the past three years. Susan shared with us that James enjoys the friendships he's formed, and the fact that his bosses like him and work with him is a real boost for his self-esteem. And, of course, there are the paychecks!
Jonathan is a host at a restaurant in Broad Ripple and enjoys interacting with and helping the customers. He, too, has begun taking classes at Ivy Tech.
One of the main reasons James and Jonathan succeed now is because of ArtMix, according to Susan. “They were in a supportive place that challenged them to learn these important skills in an environment that affirms everyone.”
When asked what the public should know about ArtMix, Susan replied: ArtMix is a phenomenal place with wonderful programs that provide critical opportunities for young people with disabilities who would not otherwise have the chance to develop so many key skills. The programs and teaching artists expertly prepare young people for working and contributing to the community. They do it by recognizing and celebrating the creativity in their students and Urban Artisans. We need to look to ArtMix as a model of what is possible. They are such an asset to Indianapolis!