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The Art of Hope

How the teachers at MCG bring a new sense of opportunity to students.

Andy Karaman is starting to think about college. That’s not necessarily an unusual thing for the average 17-year-old. But in Karaman’s case, it represents a major breakthrough: No one in his family has ever gone to college, and it’s not a subject that his family regularly talks about around the dinner table. The impetus for Karaman’s new sense of opportunity? His art teachers at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild.

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Since second semester of ninth grade, Karaman has walked to MCG almost every afternoon to take part in its free after-school program. He’s taken every class MCG has to offer – ceramics, photography, computer imaging, and drawing. But MCG’s most important lessons come from the mentoring relationships that have formed between Karaman and his instructors. “They like what I do,” Karaman says of MCG’s staff. “They make me want to do more. I see people working on a new project, and I want to try it too.” This message and teaching method resonate across BCG – offering the same kind of nurturing that Frank Ross extended to Bill Strickland 35 years ago.

Karaman lives with his half-brother and his mother, who is unemployed. Karaman’s parents divorced when he was two years old. His mother, he says, doesn’t understand why he likes to do art. But at MCG, Karaman thrives. He’s sold some of his work at MCG-organized craft shows. And the encouragement that his teachers give him has inspired him to make up projects – like the time he dug up clay in his yard and brought it to class to see if he could make a pot with it. (He did.)

“I have a lot of freedom to experiment here,” he says. Karaman isn’t sure what he wants to do after high school, but he’s thinking about college and an art-related career. His work at MCG, he says, “makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I like the fact that I’m creating something. It motivates me. I see goals I can reach.”