Every Friday afternoon I gather up an armful or two of useful doodads and random tidbits and take my happy butt to a little glass front space at 33rd and Leavenworth. There is a brightly painted concrete planter in the front that stands out against the concrete, brick, and glass of the block and every time I pass it I think I need to make one for myself, but inevitably forget as soon as I get home. Sometimes you can hear a boxing class next door, see a few friendly strangers smoking outside of the VFW across the street, or see any number of neighborhood folks waiting at the bus stop next to the planter. The Kent Bellows Studio windows are either advertising an upcoming exhibition of student’s work or strung with drying screen prints.
The moment I enter, I am smacked in the face with the immediate sense that something greater than what meets the eye is happening, as though I have entered the center of a nebula of creativity. Walking in, I am never entirely certain what will be going on. There have been times where students were recording music in the back, screen printing, draping, and sewing was happening simultaneously in the front, and upstairs there were students listening to some great vinyl while sculpting, painting, working on the computers, and otherwise creating with their chosen mediums.
The students filter in and out and wander through the building greeting friends and passing out hugs all while in search of whatever snacks they can get their hands on and eventually settle in to work on projects with their group’s mentor. Each mentor has a different focus (and they are all outstanding artists themselves) and a group of students who are interested in that area. I greet the students in my group and we talk about what challenges they have encountered since we last met. We share ideas and demonstrate different techniques. There is limited time so we split up and get to work. We only have 2-3 hours to work per day that we are there and one semester to finish projects. All of this culminates in a show at the end of the semester that is open to the public and is nearly always packed. Toward the end of the semester, the sewing machines are in high demand and everyone’s pace quickens. There is an energy that is present in every show or opening I have been a part of. It is a rush that has no comparison. KBMP is the perfect blend of support and critique to learn from and experience this. After the students leave the program, they usually have items that can go in their portfolio, and a greater knowledge of the worth of their work.
Kent Bellows Mentoring Program is a haven for the high school students. It is a safe space for them to experiment and learn, to practice being creative and learn more about themselves. They all come in with boundless ideas, ingenuity, and energy… supplemented occasionally with coffee. It is a place I wish existed when I was in high school. High school is hard and the studio is a sanctuary.
To see what the Kent Bellows Mentoring Program has been up to check out the Young Artist Exhibition open now and running through January 6th and the Teen Salon December 8th. For more info check out: