When I was a teen and looking for something cool to do on a Friday night, nothing like the free drop-in art program at Gage Academy of Art existed. I remember wandering around with friends, hanging out at restaurants that offered free refills on coffee and just trying to find a place to go and something to do that didn’t cost any money. Seattle teens need search no more! Teen Art Studios, also known as TAS, is just the ticket. It has been around for 11 years and is currently housed in the old Cornish College building on North Capitol Hill.
I dropped in last Friday to see what it was like for myself. It starts at 6:30 pm and when I got there a little before that there were already a few teens milling about and getting settled in. Each month is a different theme and each class is a stand-alone addition to the theme. If you miss one Friday it doesn’t keep you from being able to do the projects on the other Fridays. Classes are taught by working artists and from what I saw they are excited to share their knowledge and connect with other young artists. The program director, Andrea Goodman, started things off by going over some guidelines having to do with anti-bullying and respectful behavior towards each other expected by everyone at TAS. Next, this month’s teaching artist, Lauren Holloway, took over and led an exercise where each person in the room said their name, preferred pronouns and what inspires them. It took a while because a total of 40 teens showed up. This evening artists could choose from a collection of small and unique still life figures brought in by Holloway to use as a subject along with free art supplies provided by the program. How is everything free? The program is supported by grants from Boeing, the Mercer Island Rotary Club and the sponsorship of Gage Academy of Art.
Goodman told me she got involved with the program after she had served as an intern and had worked as a mentor with teens in the past. She loves the fact that the program has become known as a safe place for teens and sort of a queer teen refuge, sometimes even a respite for a less-than-ideal home life. 65%-70% of the attendees return from week to week. Snacks like pizza are sometimes served and teens can settle in with each other for a few hours to socialize and create.
I talked to a couple of the teens who showed up last Friday. Lukas has been coming to TAS for over two years and found out about it from his mom. She read an article on the internet and asked if he’d like to go and he has been showing up ever since. He likes the atmosphere, the mix of art and other teens. Lukas said his favorite mediums are ink, paints and charcoal. Zoe has only been attending for three months and heard about the program from a friend. She loves that the theme changes from month to month and she gets to use multiple skill sets. She also told me she likes that she can pick and choose what to do and if she doesn’t necessarily like the night’s theme she can just sit and draw with friends.
A new incarnation of TAS has opened up at the Bellevue Arts Museum on Thursday nights. Attendees get free admission to the museum as well as all the usual program perks (free instruction, free supplies, socializing and snacks). Goodman said there has been an expressed demand for TAS on the Eastside as teens have heard about the Seattle program but can’t always find transportation to get there and back.
I left on Friday kind of wishing I was a queer 14-year-old again looking for something to do on the weekend. I am pretty sure my friends and I would have ended up at TAS and gotten in a lot less trouble.
Teen Art Studios – Seattle: 1501 10th Ave E., Room 200 (Fridays, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm)
Teen Art Studios – Bellevue: 510 Bellevue Way NE (Thursdays, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm)