Why this matters: Because Studio 345 provides unique experiences for high school students, fostering a sense of belonging and inspiring students to pursue goals after high school.
By Amy Mitchell
Studio 345 began four years ago with the dream of providing high quality arts education to Charlotte-Mecklenburg high school students during out-of-school time, free of cost to the students.
For Lucìa Castañeda, a student at South Mecklenburg High School, Studio 345 was a dream come true. “I felt unable to explore art in my high school classes,” said Lucía of her first experiences studying visual art in a classroom. “I felt discouraged to explore my own creativity outside of the confines of the assignments.”
She knew a friend that had previously participated in Studio 345, so when she saw an information table about the program at her school, she was already familiar and ready to get involved. After Lucía’s discouraging experience in a traditional classroom setting with visual art, she was eager to find a new creative outlet.
Her first experience in Studio 345 was music, “worst decision ever,” says Lucía of that first trimester. “I’m not musical at all, but I found the environment of Studio 345 so welcoming and open to everyone, I knew I wanted to stay involved.” Lucía signed up for screen printing the next trimester, and found a studio that let her explore her creativity and learn more about visual art.
Through participating in Studio 345 with professional teaching artists that also serve as mentors, Lucia was able to find the kind of artistic guidance she was hungry for. “The mentors are more like friends,” said Lucía. “They teach art concepts and really allow students to apply them in their own way.”
Having the appropriate materials and freedom to explore her own creativity was what was most important to Lucia as a young developing artist, and that was what kept her coming back for more at Studio 345 each trimester.
Participating in visual art classes at Studio 345 allowed Lucía to build a portfolio of her work that served as a catalyst to opening up opportunities for advancement in her craft. Armed with confidence from encouraging mentors and a stellar portfolio of work, Lucía was accepted into the North Carolina Governor’s School program for art in 2015, and in 2016 she accepted a Merit Scholarship to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) this fall.
Already an accomplished young artist, Lucía has built an impressive resume that includes receiving several awards for her digital art piece titled “Los Peces en el Rio.” This year she was awarded the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Key for the Mid-Carolina Region, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Annual Art & Writing Contest Award and an Honorable Mention in the PTA Reflections Art Contest.
Lucía’s experience in Studio 345 has inspired her to concentrate her studies at SAIC in art education and art therapy. Lucía believes that all students should have access to a high quality arts education, and is already a strong advocate for arts programming that is accessible to all.
“I tell everyone I can about Studio 345, and how awesome the program is,” said Lucía. “I’m already advocating for the importance of art education for students, and I think a program like Studio 345 needs to be available to more students all over the world.”