Design Apprenticeship Program helps teens connect with community

Launched in April 2013, the Design Apprenticeship Program at the Arts Incubator in Washington Park encourages community transformation by empowering youth to become stewards of their local community. Teens and young adults who take part in the program learn carpentry, landscaping, and design from lead craftsman Norman Teague, and have the opportunity to share their work with the community at shows and exhibitions throughout the city. Apprentices Kyndal Buchanan and Jacarie Martin, both 17 and rising seniors at Kenwood Academy, discussed their experience in the program.

Why did you want to take part in the Design Apprenticeship Program?

KB: It looked interesting, because I’m still trying to decide on a career, so I thought I might explore the process of design and building things, just to see where it might take me.

JM: I really like to do art, and I was doing graphic design in school. I thought it would really give me a new skill for a career choice.

 What kinds of projects have you been working on?

KB: For our first project, we built cardboard chairs. We built stools. We’ve been working on a wooden cart and trying to renovate it. We do a lot of woodwork.

What did you think the first time you saw the studio and all the tools?

JM: I thought it was going to be easy, but the very first project was the cardboard chairs—that was so difficult. Making the small model of it is so easy, but when you try to go from the small model to the big model, there’s a lot of curves and cuts you have to do, and getting the pieces to fit was so frustrating.

KB: The power tools are kind of intimidating, but they’re easy once you learn how to use them.

How did you feel when you finished your first project?

KB: I had so many ideas in my mind, but once I actually had to execute it, and it actually turned into something—that was satisfying.

What do you think of the Arts Incubator?

KB: I really like it. It’s so diverse and everybody is so nice. It’s really comforting.

JM: I feel safe in this environment. The people we’re with are really friendly. I’ve met new people.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned or gotten to do as a design apprentice?

KB: I really liked making the stools. Those were really successful. Everybody was on them and asking us about them. I felt like a real designer.

JM: My favorite thing was a bench that I made. It took a while. When it was finished, I was so happy that it was done. It came out well.

What did your parents think about you getting involved with this program?

KB: My mom was excited. She wants to be an interior designer, so she got excited when I told her about it. My dad comes by sometimes to look at everything.

JM: I don’t think my mom thought I was going to go through with it. After I did and she came to the show, she had a big smile on her face. She wouldn’t stop talking about it.

Would you recommend this program to your friends?

KB: Yes, because it gives you the opportunity to become more self-sufficient. You can make your own things, your own table, and your own chairs. It’s really fun. The group of teens is always really friendly. It’s like a family. I think it would be fun for them to do.

JM: I think it’s something fun to do. It would give them a new skill in life, and it might give them a possible career choice that they may want to do, and they’d get to meet people.

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Photos

Jacarie Martin
Kyndal Buchanan
Shahtianna Spikes
Nkosi Barber

Jacarie Martin, 17, of Chicago, sits on the cardboard chair prototype he made while in the Design Apprenticeship Program (DAP) at the Arts Incubator.

Photo by Bonnie Trafelet

Kyndal Buchanan, 17, of Chicago holds the penguins she made while in the Design Apprenticeship Program.

Photo by Bonnie Trafelet

Instructor Norman Teague of Chicago, left, watches his student Shahtianna Spikes, 18, of Chicago use a saw in the carpentry workshop.

Photo by Bonnie Trafelet

Teague jokes with student Nkosi Barber, 20, while talking to students Donovan Tribble, Zerricka Burton, Liz Behrens, and Marcus Pelt prior to their gallery opening.

Photo by Bonnie Trafelet

Media Contact

Susan Allen
News Officer for Humanities, Divinity, and Libraries
News Office, University Communications
sjallen1@uchicago.edu
(773) 702-4009

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