Under A Wing – Art mentor program in Ely, MN

Mission:  Preparing for life through art.

Meet Lauren and Abby – the first students of the Into The Brush – Under A Wing Art Mentor Program

Starting in June 2019, Into The Brush is proud to announce a new Art Mentorship  Program called “Under A Wing”.  The goal of Under A Wing is to foster and grow artistic ability at the the youth level to give talented, committed young artists a gentle push forward into a more successful future as an artist.

School art programs are great but they are usually the first targets of budget cuts.  Despite the fact that art and design are in virtually everything we touch and use, art can be kicked to the curb as we all tend to take it for granted.  STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is great and very much needed in the U.S.,  but if you left designing a car for instance, up to an engineer, it would look like a shoebox with four wheels and a steering apparatus.  Skilled artists affect everything from the box of corn flakes on the breakfast table to the appearance of the table itself.  We don’t even realize how we take art (and design) for granted while art remains integrated into every corner of society.  Then, there is also that whole, “beautiful art for art’s sake” part as well.  Art makes our lives richer while it records history, explores new ideas, and challenges the viewer and the artist.

How  the “Under A Wing” Art Mentor Program Began:
Into The Brush’s founder Joe Baltich was “roped” into giving away a scholarship at the Ely high school for a friend.  While sitting on a steel folding chair on a stage  under bright lights waiting for his number 42 to come up requiring a speech, Joe observed Ely’s best and brightest out of a graduating class of  32 kids.  Almost every kid who crossed the stage was receiving a STEM related award(s).  It was thoroughly impressive as a lot of cash was handed out to help make futures brighter for kids who applied themselves.  Somewhere around Award #30 or so, Joe noted that there was nothing given for that art-class kid.  He or she is the one who sits in class and absorbs what is being taught by the teacher while enjoying the exposure to whatever they are doing.  That kid probably has some real, art “chops” but in a class full of kids, it’s hard to reach out and give that little extra push to see where that kid might go in art.

While on stage, Joe thought about offering an “art” scholarship and raising money for it, but then realizing that $500-1000 is a drop in the proverbial bucket, he wasn’t really thrilled with that idea.  Then, of all things, Wintergreen company’s Susan Schurke came to the awards podium and handed out $1000 for a kid in “art and design”.  That was the only award for art out of  literally a sea of awards .

The next day, while at the Ely Echo newspaper on an errand, Joe described what he saw to the owner,  Nick Wognum.  He discussed his feeling of  futility in giving an art  kid a thousand bucks to use for a school probably costing $15,000 just for yearly tuition.

Nick said, “You ought to do a mentor program.”

Joe thought that was a GREAT idea!  He said, “Bye.” to Nick and arranged a meeting with the school’s art teacher, Kelly Chick.

Joe’s History
When Joe was just 13, by the recommendation of an artist who saw his other work, Joe began to paint.  Learning every step by himself for the next 10 years,  he became a commissioned artist and always had spending money through college from selling his art.

In trying to actually enroll in a college painting class, Joe was disappointed in the stubbornness of the art department at UMD.   After describing his ability to paint and work as a commissioned artist,  they essentially wrote him off as a beginner.  They demanded he start at the very bottom despite his interest in painting.  He gave it shot, but college art (and its silliness) wasn’t for him.

Joe felt that if he’d had someone, anyone who painted who could have helped him out back then, his work today would have been propelled further.  From this concept, Under A Wing was formed.

In a meeting with Kelly at Crapola World Headquarters, Joe described his background and his idea for the mentor program.  It was a 100 hour  program over the course of a year.  Kelly liked the idea and said she had two kids who were exceptional in their drive, talent and commitment to a process.  They were also sisters.  Kelly would talk to them and their mom to describe what Joe was planning to do.

Initially, Joe wanted only one, but could not see choosing between two sisters, so after a meeting with them and describing the program,  he agreed to take them both.

The Plan
Under A Wing is a simple program.  The students show up for two hours per week and they paint while learning techniques, experimenting,  and working towards producing fine art that could be sold.  The following considerations are the foundation of the program

Consideration 1:  Joe’s philosophy is that good fine art is better if somebody else likes it so much, they want to own it.  Fewer artists would starve if they learned to find fulfillment in painting something that brings them joy while holding mass appeal.  It is a capitalist approach and a great way to live:  having fun painting and selling one’s work bringing joy to somebody who doesn’t paint.  Working every day in a job that one loves is really not working.

Consideration 2:  After one year of classes, Joe hopes to see at least six,  marketable works by program participants.  At the end of the program, there will be an art open house featuring the work of Under A Wing students.

Consideration 3:  Youth. Under A Wing mentors younger students so they hopefully will remain in Ely for a while, barring unforeseen  life changes/events.  They can then remain in touch with the mentor with their own works and also help other kids coming up through the school system.  The end result should be a sharing of knowledge that pushes art forward among the youth of Ely, MN.  Joe is among a whole bunch of old artists in Ely.  Ely needs successful young artists to rise up and be noticed in his opinion.

Under A Wing Scholarship
An Under A Wing art mentorship program is comprised of 50, two-hour sessions, most materials provided including paint, canvas, studio space an other equipment.  The value of the program is $5,000 per student.   This is a scholarship and there is no charge to the students selected to participate.

Under Into The Brush’s 501 (c)(3) non-profit status, private donations will be sought to contribute to this exciting program.  If you would like to donate to the Under A Wing mentor program, you may make a contribution at the Ely Area Credit Union to the Into The Brush account.

Other fundraisers will be planned to cover the cost of this scholarship.  More formal fundraising events will eventually be planned over the course of the year.




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