Program Profile: Artward Bound Inspires College Preparation and Self-Expression

A typical day for the students of MassArt’s Artward Bound program consists of morning math and ELA classes, followed by an entire afternoon focused on art. This time is spent expanding the students’ skill sets, working towards finding their unique style, and building their portfolios in preparation for college applications.

Aside from classes, students have the benefit of familiarizing themselves with life on a college campus and receiving individual guidance regarding their future academic and artistic endeavors.

Artward Bound is a four-year, year-round college preparatory program for students grades 9-12. The program is designed for students interested in the visual arts who are at risk of not pursuing higher education due to a combination of factors in their home, school, or community.

This focus on college prep starts even before the program commences, when students are asked to complete an application of similar format to MassArt’s including essays of intent, letters of reference, and interviews. Additionally, incoming 11th graders are given the option to reside in MassArt’s campus housing for the duration of the summer session. The older students of the program are each assigned to a MassArt admissions counselor to begin discussing their goals and planning for college applications. As an added incentive, MassArt awards up to two full-ride scholarships for graduating students of the program.

“I really believe in this program and its importance,” expresses Sophia, one of the two student mentors at Artward Bound, and a rising junior at MassArt. Sophia explains that she works closely with rising 10th graders of the program through all their classes, as well as providing consistent social emotional and behavioral support. When asked to reflect on her experience as a mentor at Artward Bound, she says that she most appreciates “getting to know the kids and watching them grow.”

Adam Tibbets, Artward Bound’s art instructor and a Boston Public Schools middle school teacher, also expresses his dedication to the students’ success. Although he considers himself to be tough when it comes to critiques, he aims to mimic the intensity of a college art class and help the students grow. As he walks around the studio, checking in with each student individually while they work on their charcoal self portraits, it is clear that they all appreciate his suggestions and guidance.

Three and a half hours is a much longer class than most high school students are used to, but the program aims to build the stamina and discipline needed to succeed in art school. “You have to want it,” says Director Chandra Ortiz, demonstrating the students’ true dedication and commitment to this program. Ortiz, who was a student of Upward Bound herself, reflects on her role at the Artward Bound calling it “fantastic, purposeful work.” “I love my job,” she adds with a smile.

Program Manager Ena Fox agrees with her colleague, adding that her favorite part of the program is its crazy exciting energy! “I love the people I work with and the students — they’re inspiring.”

Anyone who has the privilege of seeing Artward Bound in action can tell you that this group of students are committed, and truly fortunate to be a part of such a positive community fostering growth towards a college education.

Photo credit: Casey Atkins Photography