Posted August 20, 2018

Mind to paper, Tyler gives high school students space to create

Art Start and DigiStart encourage School District of Philadelphia juniors and seniors to create traditional and digital art, hone their skills and consider art as a career path.

Video Production: Gina Benigno and Louis Peluyera

Not too long ago, Georgina Gonzalez gave her son Erik Gonzalez-Morales a set of charcoals. As soon as he told his mother he wants to pursue art and that he wants to work at The Walt Disney Company one day, she started investing: tablets, charcoals, whatever he needed.
But the charcoals went untouched. He wasn’t sure how to use them.
So, in late July, when Gonzalez stood in front of her son’s self portrait, done in charcoal, neatly displayed at the Tyler School of Art, her smile stretched from ear to ear.
“He’s been drawing since he was 3,” Gonzalez said. “I’m very proud of him.”
Gonzalez-Morales, a student at Swenson Arts & Technology High School in Northeast Philadelphia, just completed Art Start, a four-week intensive summer pre-college program at Temple. He learned how to use charcoals, among other skills critical to anyone wanting to follow a career in the arts, and was challenged to create a self-portrait using them—his most difficult assignment.
Every summer for the past 27 years, Tyler has hosted two full-scholarship summer programs, Art Start and DigiStart, for School District of Philadelphia public or charter high school students. Open to juniors and seniors, all students must be nominated by someone from their school.

Students in the Art Start program explore foundational drawing and sculpture techniques, and DigiStart students work the in digital media world, learning the fundamentals of design and photography. Both programs are taught by Tyler faculty, alumni or practicing artists, with current Tyler students working as teaching assistants.
Students were called on to think differently—to blow things up, in a sense. To take a calculator and recreate it 10 times its actual size. To collaborate with their classmates on an animated video project.
“We’re trying to provide a supplemental high-quality art experience,” said Laura Hricko, assistant director of pre-college programs and continuing education at Tyler. “It’s important to welcome the students to Tyler, and for them to understand that this is a place that they absolutely belong. There are careers in the arts, that going to art school is not only fun, but challenging. It teaches them skills for creative problem solving.”
Hricko, who is working toward her master’s degree in art education at Tyler, and her team survey all of the students to learn about their experience with art education. With about 60 students participating in both programs each summer, a small portion may come from high schools that have no art classes or programs, Hricko explained, but the majority of students have limited art experiences at school.
“I love seeing these students be challenged to work in a medium that they haven’t previously worked in and work outside of their comfort zone to gain new skills—and enjoy themselves while doing it,” Hricko said.
Four weeks of hard work culminated when the students gathered at Tyler with their peers, families and teachers to be honored for completing the program and—the real high point—to see their art displayed on the walls of the renowned art school.
“I’ve never been to Temple before this. I’ve only seen it from my mom’s car, so being at Tyler is exciting,” Gonzalez-Morales said. “After high school, I want to go to an art college. Art is complete freedom.”
Learn more about Art Start and DigiStart, as well as Tyler’s other pre-college, continuing education and non-credit programs.

MEDIA MENTIONS: Both programs were featured on