VSA Colorado's Artworks puts kids to work on commercial commissions

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VSA Colorado /Access Gallery is bringing something very special indeed to Santa Fe Drive this month. From 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, February 21, the gallery will open a show featuring original pieces by youth with disabilities, created through the Artworks Corporate Art Venture, a program benefiting kids who have difficulty expressing themselves in high school -- or finding a job after graduation. See also: Hit the wall at VSA Arts

"The idea behind this is the kids with disabilities are not getting your traditional jobs," explains Damon McLeese, VSA executive director. "We used to just do a job-readiness program, and we realized that getting them ready for jobs that don't exist does them no good."

Now McLeese works with students to produce art for entities around Denver, including Wells Fargo, the Clifford Still Museum and Pizzeria Locale, giving the businesses a choice of three kinds of work. The students can create large typography pieces, collages and photo mosaics, or collateral pieces, for which the business gives VSA some of its literature or menus and students paint over the material, cutting it up to create their own work of art.

The local business either purchases the resulting pieces for full commission or trades services with the students; prices range from $1,000 to $2,000.

All of the materials that are used for the artwork is donated. If you'd like to contribute and support the show, go to Neighborhood Catalyst, the program that helps bring in donations, before February 17. The show itself will be up from February 21 to late March.

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