Art has the power to transform lives, inspire creativity, and bring communities together. In the heart of Rainier View, a Seattle neighborhood known for its rich cultural diversity and vibrant community, Urban ArtWorks’ Mural Apprentice Program (MAP) has been making a significant impact.

The MAP is a paid arts-based employment training for youth (primarily ages 11 -19) who face systemic barriers to arts, education, and employment. Urban ArtWorks prioritizes working with youth who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and low-income. In sessions offered during both the school year and summer, apprentices work alongside teaching artists to research, design, and install large-scale murals and other public art. Through ongoing dialogue and artmaking, they get to know their peers and their community while exploring a potential career path in public art.

In Rainier View, this site-specific MAP is not just about creating beautiful murals; it’s about equipping young artists and fostering connections between them and their community. We wanted to share some insight into the story of the 2023 Rainier View MAP, highlighting the collaboration between teaching artists, students, and young adults in transition from the Shared Homes and Young Adults in Transitions (YAIT) programs.

This past summer marks the second year Urban ArtWorks has served Rainier View area youth through the MAP. Working under the guidance of Teaching Artists Perry Porter and Trenise Williams, students brought a mural to life, and the results have been nothing short of extraordinary. What set this summer program apart is its dedication to involving the youth from the YAIT program, which offers subsidized rent and case management support to young people living in YMCA-owned properties. These young adults face unique challenges as they transition into independent living, and the Rainier View MAP program saw an opportunity to make a positive impact.

The concept for the mural was born through collaboration between teaching artists, the YAIT youth as well as the Rainier View MAP youth. It’s a mural that tells a story, and its central elements include chess pieces and the poignant text, “This too shall pass.” This concept not only serves as a powerful visual narrative but also reflects the resilience and strength of the young adults in transition.

The involvement of the YAIT youth in developing the concept allowed them to express their experiences, hopes, and dreams. This process was not only therapeutic but also empowering, as it gave these young individuals a platform to share their stories with each other. The murals concept became a canvas for their emotions, struggles, and aspirations.

Upon Perry and Tree’s return to the MAP program after visiting the YAIT youth the MAP students eagerly rolled up their sleeves and got to work. With the concepts in hand from the YAIT students, they brought the mural’s design to life while simultaneously honing their painting skills. What’s truly remarkable is that Rainier View MAP Youth artists completed this mural entirely freehand, without references projected and traced onto the mural surface, demonstrating their creativity and collaboration.

MAP youth blended diverse artistic styles, using their imaginations and brushes to craft a mural with their unique perspectives and creativity, resulting in a mural that reflects their community as well as a collage of each artist’s style. The experience of creating murals had an impact on the students.

“Looking around the places that I’m familiar and unfamiliar with gets so much more interesting whenever I see murals now. It’s so fascinating to know these muralist’s step by step and all the hard work that went into their pieces. It makes me even more determined to reach my goals!” – Rainier View Youth Apprentice

As the weeks went by, the MAP students poured their dedication and commitment into the project. Upon completion of the Rainier View MAP program, not only did they receive well-deserved stipends, but they also gained a platform. Students can look back at the moments they shared, the skills they honed, and the friendships made.

The Rainier View MAP youth went a step further by curating a playlist. Everyone contributed music while painting, to accompany the artwork. Music has a unique way of enhancing the emotional impact of visual art, and this playlist is an auditory extension of the mural.

You can listen to the playlist by clicking on the button:

The program’s impact extended beyond the art on the wall. It was about personal growth, skill development, and building a sense of community. The MAP students became not just artists but ambassadors of change in their own neighborhood.

The story comes full circle in the dedication of the mural to the young adults in transition from the YAIT program. Teaching artists Perry and Tree returned to the YAIT students who had originally offered their ideas for the mural’s design. This act of recognition was an appreciation for the partnership between these two groups.

The YAIT youth added their own aspect to the mural; they wrote words of affirmation, their favorite quotes, and lines of poetry. Through collaboration between teaching artists, students, and young adults in transition from the YAIT program, a mural was created that not only lives in the YAIT community center but also amplifies the voices of all involved.

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