Visual Arts Programs for Teens



It will take several years for the entire 26,000 square-foot building that houses Warehouse 508 to be remodeled, but Albuquerque’s new teen arts center has been offering visual arts classes since it opened in September 2009.

Warehouse 508 is one of a handful of centers in central and northern New Mexico that has visual arts classes, workshops and mentorship programs designed especially for teens. With help from three AmeriCorps volunteers, a small staff and community volunteers, Warehouse 508 already offers classes in graphic design, portfolio preparation and photography. Plans for many more visual arts classes are in the works.

“Putting silkscreen presses in the building is high on our list,” says executive director Amy Dalness. “In the future, we’ll offer a recycled art workshop. Our programming will increase constantly over time and reflect the needs and desires of Albuquerque’s teens. We have a youth council that lets us know what kinds of arts classes Albuquerque’s teens really want.”

An old tortilla factory south of Albuquerque’s downtown district has been transformed into the new home of Working Classroom, an organization which offers programs for artists, actors and writers in professional development as well as art classes that incorporate social action. The six-week Day of the Dead program is a popular annual fall workshop that involves approximately 20 teens creating a contemporary Day of the Dead installation built around a social or political theme.

At the newly remodeled 8,000 square-foot facility, teens can take classes in painting, drawing, sculpting, photography and printmaking year-round.

“We’ve got a huge gallery where teens exhibit and sell their work,” explains Working Classroom’s executive director Nan Elsasser. “Many of our workshops culminate in a show in the gallery space. Teens get to keep 70 percent of the revenues generated from the sale of their work. They also earn money by being part of a Working Classroom public art project.”


While classes and workshops meet twice a week during the school year, Working Classroom’s Summer Arts Institute offers intensive, five-day-a-week programs that last between two and four weeks.
“We’ve had professional artists from Cuba, Mexico and France serving as instructors at our Summer Arts Institute,” says Elsasser. “Our teens leave the program with a network of contacts around the world.”

Teens who are interested in mural projects and want to get paid while creating art should check out the eight-week Art Summer Institute at the Harwood Art Center in Albuquerque. The ceramic tile murals wrapped around the sides of the Albuquerque Convention Center have been put together by teens participating in the summer program, which takes place annually from June through August.

During the school year, the Harwood Art Center offers the Harwood Teen Drawing Intensive. This two-semester class is taught in the tradition of the apprenticeship system by Albuquerque master painter Leo Neufeld.

“The focus of the class is on learning a specific philosophy of art rather than creating finished pieces,” explains the Harwood Art Center’s director, Stephanie Gabriel- Gonzales. “Leo focuses on figure drawing. Students learn to interpret what is in front of them, to build confidence in their ability and to improve their control.”

Once a year the Harwood offers a six-week workshop in portfolio building that attracts many teens who plan to apply to art school or want to have their work accepted into galleries.
Teens living in Santa Fe also have opportunities to expand their art skills and knowledge by participating in various programs taking place throughout town.

Warehouse 21, which has been offering programs to Santa Fe area teens in the visual, media and performing arts since 1997, has workshops in fashion design, mounting and matting artwork for exhibition and screenprinting. The organization also gets involved in five to six mural projects every year. Some projects take place in public spaces, while others are designed for private homeowners

“Screenprinting is probably our most popular visual arts workshop for teens,” says Greg Malone, who is in charge of programs and operations at Warehouse 21. “In this class, kids learn how to scan a drawing, get an image ready for screenprinting and print images. We also have many open studio workshops where teens get help on whatever project they are working on. At Warehouse 21, it’s all about mentorship. Sometimes our professional artists instruct, and other times they facilitate.”

Warehouse 21’s Youth Entrepreneurial Services (YES!) Program pays teens who participate in specific art projects. Last summer, 15 youth learned about merchandizing, screenprinting and fashion design during a five-week session.
Increasing the number of art classes for teens is the goal at Santa Fe’s Fine Arts for Children & Teens (FACT), an organization that has been teaching art classes in the public schools and providing after-school art programs at its Santa Fe facility since 1990.


“We’re trying to encourage more of the teen population to engage in our programs,” explains FACT’s interim executive director Anna Marie Tutera Manriquez. “Currently, we have figure drawing classes for teens at our ARTbarn and manga workshops at the Santa Fe Public Library. We also plan to set up printmaking and mural making classes and offer off-site mixed media classes in the studios of professional artists in town.”

Santa Fe teens who want to learn how to organize an art exhibit are invited to join SITE Santa Fe’s free Young Curators program. The goal of this weekly after-school program is to encourage teenagers’ connection to contemporary art and to provide a context for exploring the structure and production of exhibitions. Teens are shown how to choose themes for art shows, put out a call for entries in the media, write curatorial statements, select artwork and install exhibitions.

“This is an ongoing program that takes place during the school year and through the summer months,” says Joanne Lefrak, who is the education and catalogue manager at SITE Santa Fe. “Teens create exhibitions comprised of art by local, regional and national artists between the ages of 13 and 21 that are held in venues in northern and central New Mexico. Our youth curators also participate in workshops. They study historical oil gilding and frame-making, methods and procedures for conserving and restoring works on paper, paintings, sculptures and frames and contemporary forensic techniques used in painting conservation.”

While many teen arts programs are free, others have a nominal charge. Most organizations offer scholarships and want to be sure that every teen interested in participating in a program is able to do so.

Warehouse 508
508 First Street NW, Albuquerque
(505) 296-2738

Fine Arts for Children & Teens (FACT)
1516 Pacheco Street, Santa Fe
(505) 992-2787

Harwood Art Center
1114 7th Street NW, Albuquerque
(505) 242-6367

SITE Santa Fe
1606 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe
(505) 989-1199

Working Classroom
212 Gold Ave SW, Albuquerque
(505) 242-9267

Warehouse 21
1614 Paseo de Peralta, Santa Fe
(505) 989-4423

Emily Van Cleve is a Santa Fe-based freelance writer who has contributed feature articles to many local, regional and national publications including the Albuquerque Journal and Art of the West magazine

Originally appeared in The Collector’s Guide - Volume 24

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