At a time when steady work is harder to come by than usual — especially in the arts — Northeast Philadelphia-based Darien Woodard is gaining confidence that he can earn a living in the creative field: This summer, he’s spending several weeks getting paid to learn about the media business while developing hands-on skills.
“Participating in the Arts2Work program shows me that I can have a career within media while balancing a personal life as well,” Woodard, 18, told Technical.ly. “I hope this program gives me the tools to balance the creative side as well as the business side, so I can make a living off of my work while creating what I love.”
It’s all happening through community media nonprofit PhillyCAM, which launched the pre-apprenticeship program for the Alliance for Media Arts + Culture’s Arts2Work, the nation’s first creative apprenticeship program of its kind, in June.
Arts2Work’s goal is to creates access to careers in media and creative arts for artists of color, women and other groups that have historically been excluded from working in those spaces. This pre-apprenticeship program at PhillyCAM is meant to a shortened version of the full yearlong program and pays Philadelphians ages 18 to 21 to participate for three months over the summer. The program is registered in Pennsylvania and funded by the state’s PASmart program, plus operating support from the MacArthur Foundation and Adobe.
These seven participants have been focusing on different media and arts-related projects while working closely with mentors and instructors on their own professional and personal development:
- Keyssh — Writer and photographer (Southwest Philadelphia)
- Shanayah Wyche — Writer and educator (Northwest Philadelphia)
- Ramses Leonel Montes — Producer (North Philadelphia)
- Myrdéliz Montes — Filmmaker (North Philadelphia)
- Darien Woodard — Director and writer (Northeast Philadelphia)
- Jade Lewis McFall — Media maker (Northeast Philadelphia)
- Jasmin Carter — Filmmaker (North Philadelphia)
PhillyCAM Education Director Laura Deutch said Arts2Work is considered an apprenticeship program because of its similarities to other industries that use a trade model in developing a pipeline for workers.
PhillyCAM’s participants are paid for three months of full-time work in an intentional effort to show participants they can be sufficiently paid for their services, as unpaid and low-paid internships often serve as barriers of entry for people of diverse backgrounds interested in working in media or the arts.
“This is a professional development program to deepen the skillset of participants interested in entering the media field,” Deutch told Technical.ly. “The focus was less on a particular skillset needed for a particular job, and more about using a project-based approach to have participants learn interview skills, storytelling skills, editing, and work on building a portfolio website. Talks with industry professionals also were a large part of the program, connecting them to content producers, radio reporters, filmmakers and tech professionals that could share their journey and insights.”
While COVID-19 has made made the Arts2Work experience virtual, Deutch said the participants have found a steady workflow. In June and July, the pre-apprentices received daily skill-building lessons via Zoom meetings and also used independent time to develop individual projects.
“We used Basecamp as a project management tool to communicate with the students throughout the day,” she said. “Each Friday, we reviewed their progress and projects through a critique and feedback session.”
Throughout this month, participants will work with a mentor on a project related to their interests and work so far. PhillyCAM’s first pre-apprenticeship cohort will end on Aug. 27.
Check out some of the projects they’ve been working on below:
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.