Artist Working in Education fundraising for new studio

Posted at 5:46 PM, Mar 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-27 18:05:14-04

On Vliet Street sits Artist Working in Education, commonly known as AWE. The nonprofit has four truck Studios to their name and are fundraising to make it five.

Raina Johnson, the nonprofit's Donor Stewardship & Storytelling Manager, says AWE needs another truck studio because it will open more doors to help the community.   

"That means block parties, summer concert series, and gives us more access to the arts. It's really creating an avenue for creative expression," said Johnson. 

According to Milwaukee Public School's 2017-2018 and 2016-2017 budgets, funding for full-time art teachers is shrinking. Johnson knows AWE can't replace those teachers, but the truck studios offer another avenue to art. 

All year AWE hosts free art projects for MPS students at the public libraries or local parks. The truck studios are like large art closets on wheels, filled with supplies. Each project is based on a book and no two are the same.  

The AWE lead artist reads the books and guides participants in the project. Johnson can confirm the kids aren't the only ones benefiting. Together, with Johnson's son Elijah, they listen to a book about finding your place in the world. 

"I was just like oh, let me sit here and do this," said Johnson,"I ended up creating, a vision that I have for a yoga collective. I do like yoga."

AWE Arts Specialist Tatiana Diaz believes the truck studios are giving more than art, they're safe spaces for these kids.   

"Sit down and talk to a 6-year-old. Ask them 'Hey, what's up?' and they'll tell you 'Yo school is stressing me out,'" said Diaz. 

After college, Diaz says working for AWE is her way of giving back to Milwaukee and children who were like her growing up. While she hasn't been working at the non-profit for very long she says she happy to help AWE continue spreading the joy of art. 

The nonprofit has worked with over 60,000 Milwaukee children, typically between 4 to 14 years old. But families of all ages participate and no one is ever turned away because of their age.  

Diaz believes these mobile studios are ensuring artistic opportunities for students who may not have the same options in other parts of the city. 

"Black and brown kids, you know. Who maybe are interested in art but, just more importantly, should be heard by their community," said Diaz. 

Johnson says Artist Working in Education's truck studio fundraiser is being matched by two generous donors. Those two donors combined with other outside funds creates three times the financial impact. March 25 starts their final week of fundraising.