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Make a Sock Puppet and Spark Your Inner Artist at Madelife Friday

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When creativity sparks in a young person, it tends to get extinguished by societal -- and often parental -- pressures to join "the real world" and get a "real job." But the people behind Madelife want to fan that flame. "A lot of young people are told or just feel like the creative path isn't a realistic avenue to go professionally," says Madelife director Leah Brenner. "It's hard when you're younger. You're just focused on getting a job and being independent. But it's such a pivotal age where you're setting the groundwork. We want to show that that they can be creative and choose a path that's right for them."

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madelife is an all-in-one creative space in Boulder; its 6,000 square-feet location holds a retail shop, a black-box theater, a sound studio and an art gallery that features monthly exhibits featuring many Colorado artists. It also hosts community events and creative workshops that are open to the public. The next event is the third annual puppet party on Friday; December 19. You bring your own sock, and madelife will provide the rest so that you can create a puppet that can join in performances and dance-offs.

"Anybody can make a sock puppet; it's just a matter of putting eyeballs on a sock, and there you have it," Brenner says. "Anybody at any skill level can do it, and that's what's awesome about it. It's a fun way to get crafty."

And once you get crafty, you might become downright arty: in fact, Madelife calls itself a launch pad for artists. It was founded by Danny Conroy and Mae Martin, who'd worked with AIM House, a transitional program for struggling teens. Conroy and Martin wanted to create a new place where teens could indulge their passions.

"Having a place to explore creatively with peers can be inspiring and helpful when you're trying to be on the right path," Brenner explains. "There wasn't a good place to plug them in to the community. There's a young demographic of creative, talented young people, and [Madelife's founders] wanted to create a place to incubate them. Since then, it's really evolved and grown."

Madelife offers a creative accelerator program in graphic design, audio production, videography, photography and business development; it provides students advice on how to pursue these careers in the real world. It also links students with mentors who have worked professionally.

Photographer Scott Clark, one of those mentors, says Madelife has a different vibe than art school, which he attended. "People come in with some knowledge looking to hone their talents," he points out. "They get a boost into learning how to market themselves and work in the real world rather than just learning art skills. madelife is also focused on getting people connected and networking."

Each Madelife program is tailored for what the student wants to focus on. Audio coordinator Brenda Alderete says people are drawn to the individualized aspect of Madelife that they don't get out of standardized curriculums. "We can give them a taste of what the music industry is really about or how multifaceted it is," she says. "They can understand what it means to set up live sound or be a producer. Most kids come in with one idea, but we try to help them understand there are a lot of complex worlds. We equip them with skills they can actually walk away with."

And while all the tracks are separate, there's a symbiotic relationship at Madelife, so they can help each other out. "There's a cross pollination that happens," Alderete says. "A lot of times a musician needs the help of a photographer, and sometimes both of them need help from a graphic arts designer. They can each support each other in their endeavors."

Madelife's third annual puppet party runs from 7 to 11 p.m. on Friday, December 19; RSVP at madelife.com.

Follow Amanda Moutinho on Twitter at @amandamoutinho.

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