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Mastering their life skills

A collaboration between Northeastern University’s African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program (AAMARP) and the Hawthorne Youth and Community Center in Roxbury this summer enabled local youths to explore their artistic sides, engage in discussion of wide-ranging issues, develop leadership abilities and strengthen their career skills.

Ten students, from middle school to college, spent six weeks building wooden boxes and painting them to create self-expressive designs through the center’s Project W.O.W. (World of Wood/Worldof Work).The AAMARP, an adjunct of the Department of African American Studies and a Stony Brook Initiative partner, featured the students’ work at a reception in Jamaica Plain on Friday.

But the summer program incorporated more than woodworking and art. Other workshops focused on completing job applications, participating in mock interviews and preparing résumés. Students explored social justice issues such as racial profiling and stereotyping, with discussions focused on national issues such as Arizona’s new immigration law and personal issues affecting teenagers.

The students were encouraged to incorporate social justice themes into their creations. They learned how to use woodworking tools and make proper measurements, and how to design with inks, acrylics and watercolors. “It was a lot of fun to teach them and then see what they could produce,” said Jeffrey Chandler, an AAMARP artist who led the hands-on instruction in woodworking.

Taylor Mckinnon, a 15-year-old student at Boston Latin Academy, said she learned a great deal about woodworking through the program, and was so inspired she challenged herself to build a door on one of her boxes. “I wanted to make it look unique,” she said.

Gloretta Baynes, chair of artists for the AAMARP, said the program has a long-standing relationship with the Hawthorne center. She was thrilled AAMARP could host the exhibit, adding that it was a great experience for the youths to learn how to organize an art gallery.

The center’s Project W.O.W. program is funded by a grant from the Barr Foundation in partnership with Health Resources in Action. The Boston Foundation also supported the program.

The students’ work was unveiled to the public on Aug. 27, and will remain on exhibit by appointment at the AAMARP on Atherton Street in Jamaica Plain through Friday, Sept. 3. To arrange a visit, please contact Gloretta Baynes at (617) 373-3329 or

The African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program (AAMARP) is a center of excellence in multicultural visual and performing arts dedicated to creating an enriching cultural environment for a diverse community through exhibitions, concerts, performances, lectures and workshops. Founded in 1977 by Dana Chandler, AAMARP today provides studio space for artists whose work has made an invaluable contribution to Northeastern University and to the vitality of the African-American art scene in Boston and throughout the nation. It remains a prominent center for discussion of the African Diaspora cultural growth and development, and has served as a link between Northeastern, the local community and artists around the world for more than 30 years.

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