"Sometimes someone crosses your path and changes your whole direction."

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“It opened my eyes,” says Anissa of her experience with Fresh Artists.


Anissa, age 14, remembers being in Kindergarten and telling her parents: “I will be an artist. Not,” she underscores, I want to be an artist. I will be an artist!”


So when she learned that her applications to the Philadelphia special admit high schools with a focus on art were rejected, she was crushed.


“It broke my heart,” she says.


Her dad told her not to give up, but still, she was deeply discouraged. She began to doubt her talent and abandoned her sketchbook.


Fortunately not long after, she got a phone call from Fresh Artists announcing an unusual opportunity. Anissa was invited to participate in this year’s Summer Design Lab – a chance to apply drawing and design skills to the creation of prototype products, in collaboration with college interns in Professor Lyn Godley’s industrial design at Philadelphia University. Was she interested, Barbara Allen asked?


Was she? “Yes!” Said Annisa.

“This is my passion, my fire,” she says. “Getting that call jump-started me back.”

Anissa is one of five Philadelphia public middle school students who attended this year’s Summer Design Lab. All five had previous experience with Fresh Artists, most notably a weekend in October 2016 that set Anissa on a new path with the goal of achieving a dream job: becoming an Art Director.


A what?!


Before that October weekend, Anissa had never heard of this career. But at the conclusion of FA’s Design Camp – a design partnership with Crate & Barrel’s children’s brand, The Land of Nod – designer Kimberly Ellen Hall, assessed the skills and abilities of the eleven students participating and, much to the delight of the kids, suggested possible career options, based on the strengths she saw in each of them. Because of Anissa’s deft management of the team project and her ability to spot strength in individual designs, Kim suggested Anissa consider a future as an Art Director. Other kids were given potential career targets as children’s book illustrator, cartoonist for the New Yorker and architect.


It was a breakthrough.


“It opened my eyes to many careers in the art and design world,” she says. As did the entire weekend.


In art class, she says, students are typically given an assignment and expected to follow the rules with an extremely limited choice of materials.


“We were all doing the same thing,” she says. “I felt like I was working in a bubble.”


In stark contrast, working at Fresh Artists with Ms. Hall in Design Camp, kids were given a topic, introduced to a wide range of media – many of which Anissa had never before seen – told to work on their own – and experiment!


“It was cool!” she says.


Some of the other teens in the studio – kids she didn’t know before that weekend -- were very talented.


“But I wasn’t jealous,” she quickly adds. “I saw some very good ideas. Besides,” she adds. “Your opinion is not always the right one.”


These are among the qualities that led Kimberly Hall and others from The Land of Nod creative staff to see for her a future in art direction: her leadership, teamwork, and her eye for quality.


Starting this summer Anissa will be attending Parkway Center City Middle College High School – one of the first of its kind in Philadelphia. The school will offer incoming 9th graders the opportunity to graduate with high school diplomas and associate’s degrees. The academics are likely to be rigorous. But not enough to steer Anissa off course.


“I’m a person who plans ahead,” says this girl with get up and go. Now that she’s got a vision of a possible future, it’s clear nothing or no one will stand in her way!


Anissa had people cross her path at just the right time…and clarified her direction. Summer Design Labs and Design Camps are all part of the Cool Jobs Initiative to show kids there are real, dream jobs in the creative economy, that they can have one, and to show them a roadmap to their Dream – a job to love for life!