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Inside the Studio with KISD Apprentices

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

Empowering Young Artists with Disabilities to Shine

The apprentice program is designed to provide high-caliber, intensive art apprenticeships to young artists with disabilities attending special education transition centers in West Michigan. As apprentices, artists work and train under a professional artist and gain experience in arts administration, professional development, artistic training, and experiential learning.

Students apply for the apprentice program through their schools, demonstrating their passion for the arts. Their teachers carefully select which students partake in this program weekly. These chosen students then embark on a year-long journey, constructing unique portfolios. As their art showcases approach, their distinct artistic styles emerge, and ACT strives to enhance and empower these young, talented artists. ACT provides them with the chance to create a body of work that can be exhibited, sold, and serves as a foundation for pursuing artistic careers.

This year’s 2023-2024 Apprentice class is in full swing. A class of 10 students from four different EmpowerU Transition Schools in Kent County meet weekly to learn and create under the guidance of Teaching Artist Jill Rice. This unique class allows students to learn various mediums and find their art style. For the first few weeks of class, students worked with watercolor, photography, and acrylic on canvas. Next, they’ll dive into 3D art forms and start working with clay.

ACT’s Community Arts Captain, Kait Polzin, stated, “As the lead on this program, the most rewarding aspect is witnessing the growth and empowerment of our students throughout the year. From their initial stages to the culmination of their artistic journey, it's a privilege to see their confidence and creative abilities flourish.”

Throughout the year, these students are able to display and sell their artwork at different venues, such as ACT’s ACTion Art Exhibition, a public exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum and pop-up sales at their schools. Polzin stated, “These students serve as inspiring examples, not just within their immediate communities at school but also by making creative choices that push boundaries and inspire others, including myself.”

Learn more about ACT’s apprentice program and get to know our 10 KISD Apprentices on our website. In the spring, we will share opportunities to purchase prints and original apprentice artwork. Stay tuned!

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