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Family-run foundation offers students free art workshops

Coloring outside the lines

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Dr. Stuart Agres tells the story of a young girl named Michelle, whose parents never envisioned their daughter as a starving artist. In fact, they maintained that her artistic dreams represented a dead end, and wouldn't get behind them. That is, until Michelle became involved with the Adduce Foundation (adducefoundation.org).

An art education organization in Colorado Springs, the Adduce Foundation, now in its 10th year, offers high-school juniors and seniors a hands-on, unique and completely free experience. Kids get exposed to tools and techniques in visual arts — Raku pottery firing, illustration, stained glass, airbrush, 3D abstract art, woodcarving, oil painting and plein air (outdoor) painting — outside the typical classroom setting.

"My family knew we wanted to do something in the community," says Agres, founder and chief financial officer. "My daughter said art would be good because they were busy cutting budgets in high schools."

But Agres, his wife Pat and his daughter Jori didn't want to just "throw money at schools." Since 2005, the foundation has allied with Cottonwood Center for the Arts, where, as Agres says, "there's art on the walls and artists doing art. They're demonstrating to the kids that this is a real thing and if you want to be an artist, that's OK."

Students, often referred by their schoolteachers, fill out an application online. To ensure one-on-one interaction, enrollment is limited to 10 to 12 students per workshop. Each semester includes about eight workshops, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., on Saturdays and Sundays. None of the classes repeat from semester to semester, and the semester starting in January will offer all new classes.

"The fact that they're willing to give up an entire weekend, for 12 hours, to come here and focus shows that these kids are so interested," says Bari Parkhill, Cottonwood education director. "We've never gotten feedback from a student saying it was a waste of a weekend."

As a "liaison" between the Adduce Foundation and potential art instructors, Parkhill looks for Cottonwood artists who have a blend of both art crafting and instructor skills. "They are all appealing, phenomenal instructors, the best in this craft in the city," says Parkhill. "There's a lot [of artists] in this city; you just have to find them."

"They are interested in working with young people in the community, and give up their time to help these kids do their thing," says Agres, who emphasizes the "balancing act" of artist and teacher. Adduce money goes toward instructor pay and materials; the foundation mandates that the "kids pay for nothing." It has just one other rule: Kids should receive the best experience they can possibly have.

Since her involvement with Adduce, Michelle's life has been launched in a whole new direction; she's now a volunteer at an organization mentoring homeless youths in education, recreation and art. "Through the [Adduce] program and by seeing what their child was capable of, the imagination and talent, and hearing what professors were saying," says Agres, her parents came to accept and support her pursuit of art. And that, in turn, is impacting the community.

"It's not about us at all. It's not about Cottonwood or the foundation. It's about the kids," says the founder. "It's magical to see the progression over time of these students and their art. That's what I get out of it. I get to see it all happening in real time."

apalmer@csindy.com

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