As the Milwaukee School Board struggles with budget shortfalls that threaten arts teachers jobs for the next school year, MPS and the recreation department have teamed up with local arts organizations to offer internships to qualified high school students this summer.

The MPS Earn to Learn-Arts Internship Program will provide paid positions to teens to explore careers in the arts while also gaining practical jobs skills and work experience. MPS Community Arts Specialist Kari Couture said the program was funded by the school board following a suggestion by board vice-president Peter Blewett. This is the first year of funding and Couture is hoping for good participation to convince the board that the program should become permanent.

“This is an invaluable opportunity for students to gain real work experience, explore potential career  paths and validate their interests in the arts,” Couture said.

Eligible participants must be high school level students, attend an MPS school and be a resident of the city. Students who attend parochial, private or choice schools within the city are not eligible to apply. The internships will span a total of at least 40 hours and take place after school, on weekends and through the summer of 2010. Interns will be paid and provided with bus vouchers.

Some of the biggest names on the Milwaukee arts scene are partnering with MPS and the recreation department for this project, including First Stage Children’s TheaterMilwaukee Art Museum, The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and Discovery World. Each organization has specific internship opportunities, with many focusing on arts administration positions.

First Stage will offer students two different opportunities, some in their traditional summer Theater Academy and others in the Playwrights/Directors program. The Theater Academy interns will work with students in the company’s theater program, interacting with parents, children and instructors. This program is always offered by First Stage and was one of the reasons they got on board with MPS.

“We are happy to see MPS supporting arts education and careers,” Academy Administrative Director Erin Whitehead said. “We’ve worked with MPS students in the past and have been pleased with their work ethic.”

The Playwright/Directors Internship is unique, with students working directly with Artistic Director Jeff Frank. They will focus on the process of screening new play submissions and play development. This will include reading plays, providing analysis and feedback on the submissions, organizing and cataloging scripts and preparing pieces for the New Play Workshops.

The MAM is seeking six interns through the program, with positions available in the educational, curatorial, visitor relations and communications departments in the organization. In addition, each intern will attend seminars on careers within art museums and learn how to prepare for museum-specific job interviews.

“We’ve always had internships at the art museum,” Adam Horowitz, marketing coordinator with the museum, said. “It is a vibrant program and it is just a natural fit for our educational focus to team with MPS.”

Another unique opportunity is the photography internship at The Wisconsin Conservatory of Music. This internship will assist in building a photo collection of recitals, classes and summer camps. The intern will also learn to photograph arts performances, edit,  prepare the art for publication and Internet use and learn to archive photography collections.

Other groups involved with the Earn to Learn internship program are Artists Working in EducationExpress Yourself MilwaukeeMilwaukee Public Theater and The Milwaukee Repertory Theater. The Earn To Learn program includes two applications, one from MPS and another from the art organization. For complete information, click here. Application timelines vary with each organization, with the earliest deadline on April 12.

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