April 2011 - December 2018

 Talent Agency, An Art Portfolio Development Program for Syracuse City Youth Mission

Talent Agency, An Art Portfolio Development Program for Syracuse City Youth Mission

Talent Agency is a partnership that provides educational value to the University while creating opportunities for underserved low income youth in the city. Our goal is to develop natural talents and set teen participants in the program on a course to college art and design programs. Ability in the area of visual art knows no economic boundaries, however unless these talents are recognized and developed, students from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds will likely miss the opportunities a creative education can provide. This project addresses the obstacles that students from families who are caught in poverty encounter, and why so few of them are able to develop their talents into rewarding careers.

In creating these opportunities for Syracuse City youth, we provide real job training and experience for students enrolled in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and other colleges at Syracuse University. Talent Agency serves as a creative site for visual art students to learn to teach and use their skills to improve communities under the guidance of experienced professors, and to experience working in an entrepreneurial venture. The educational opportunities are clearly mutually beneficial to both student communities. To this end we have involved many university students as volunteers, work study staff and paid grant-funded internships.

In the initial development of “Talent Agency”, Yvonne Buchanan and Dorene Quinn, identified the art portfolio as the single most important tool to provide a bridge for non- traditional applicants to gain access and funding towards training and education in the field. Through their combined 40 years of college level art and design teaching, they understood that in providing a program that focuses high quality pre-college skill and portfolio building assistance and mentorship, these students can be competitive for the top programs in the field. The portfolio is the first, and most important component in application to colleges of art and design, and a strong portfolio, developed under the instruction and guidance of specialists can be an enormous advantage, leading to scholarships and educational choices.

In the spring of 2011 Buchanan and Quinn proposed the project idea to The Near Westside Initiative, and received $ 30,000 to start the program with funding provided by theAnnieE.CaseyFoundation. As part of the grant, the students created a permanent concrete and steel sculptural installation in a vacant lot in the neighborhood, along with receiving instruction and assistance in building art portfolios. The program started with 7 high school students and recent Syracuse City School District high school graduates. With the grant money we were able to rent a studio to teach drawing and 2- Dimensional art, adjacent to Dorene Quinn’s personal sculpture studio, where the students were introduced to welding processes and wood fabrication. We hired a college student to assist us that first year.

After that first summer, the founders came to realize that the youth needed to have continued contact and mentoring in order to get through the college application process, so they determined to provide year-round programming.

Due to the success of the first summer, the Near Westside Initiative asked the founders to do another summer session, and with the experience gained from the first summer, they expanded the program and accepted 20 students for portfolio development and skill building. The budget was considerably smaller but allowed for the hiring of two college students as assistants. Talent Agency received $4000.00 from Annie E. Casey and a grant of $5000.00 from Say Yes to Education. Buchanan and Quinn’s participation was mainly voluntary due to lack of funding, however the summer intensive was a great success and programming was extended into the fall and spring in order to see the seniors graduate and gain admission into art programs. From that group all the seniors continued on to community college or 4-year institutions. During the fall of 2012, VPA assisted in writing a grant to the New York State Council for the Arts specifically for the support of Talent Agency. It was awarded a $58,300 matching grant to support the program. This money was used to operate the summer 2013, and fall sessions, including salaries for faculty, and staff, all from the ranks of the Syracuse University student body. 19 youth participated in the 6-week summer session and 20 students from all of the City high schools after school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and several hours each Saturday throughout the 2013-14 academic year.

During the spring of 2013, Quinn and Buchanan felt confident in the success and value of the program and in April they approached Chancellor Cantor to help sustain the project for at least 3 years in order for it to develop into a permanent part of the College of Visual and Performing Arts. Funds were provided from the Chancellor’s office to cover a part-time administrative salary so that Dorene Quinn could continue to teach in and oversee the program, and supervise the student workers and participants, and Yvonne Buchanan was given a one course load reduction to continue teaching and assisting in the administration of the project. This arrangement was honored by Chancellor Syverud with two additional grants of $80,000 for academic years 2014-2015 and 2015-2016.

Program Structure

In the years since the program was first implemented, a seasonal schedule of instruction, activities and events has developed that follow the needs of youth preparing for college admission. The program begins its year in the summer with a 6- week intensive portfolio development pre-college program that meets 4 days per week for 6 hours per day. The morning is dedicated to drawing instruction and the afternoon provides 3 hours of multimedia instruction including painting, sculpture, photo, illustration, digital, etc.

Student work