By Jamyra Perry
PHILADELPHIA — A new federal program to help young Black and Latinx people find jobs in the media industry kicked off in Philadelphia this summer.
Arts2Work is the first federally-registered National Apprenticeship Program in Media Arts and Creative Technologies. The pre-apprenticeship program calls PhillyCAM home.
Located in Center City, PhillyCAM is a community media center committed to teaching, creating, and distributing locally-produced media content.
Arts2Work’s purpose is to create a path to careers in media entertainment, journalism, advertising, and related fields for artists of color, women, youth, LGBTQ, people with disabilities and those experiencing poverty. The program focuses on youth from ages 18 to 21.
Wendy Levy, executive director of the Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, said most careers have some kind of apprenticeship program and she couldn’t believe one didn’t exist for the media arts.
“We consider Arts2Work a revolutionary blueprint for the future of creative work,” Levy said. “If you want to learn to be an electrician or a construction worker or a healthcare worker. You get to learn on the job, you get to get paid to learn, and then you advance in your job and then you have a union gig for life.”
She started the program to change the fact that most media arts interns work for very little or no pay.
“In the media industry, we’re built on a culture of unpaid and low paid internships and more often than not they don’t lead to jobs,” Levy said. “So I’m like, why, why, why does that have to happen?”
Levy said now is the time to amplify voices that have previously been silenced or ignored.
“The culture of the media industry, which is indicated by ‘Oscar So White and the ‘Me too’ movement, it’s a system that’s broken and completely inequitable and persistently prioritizes white power, white male power especially, and so we wanted to create this pipeline to jobs for young people who are not rich, white and entitled,” Levy said.
Temple University senior, Shanayah Wyche is one of the young people benefiting from the Arts2Work program. She said her fellow students and herself have done a lot over the past two months and the program has taught her how her work can impact people on a larger level.
“We’re called a cohort, a group of myself and seven other students,” she said. “We have gone through weekly training to understand different forms of media and how we can make our work impactful and get people to understand our work through different levels of media so we’ve been trained in audio storytelling, visual storytelling as well as social campaigns. We learned how to make an impact and how to invoke change through social media.”
Wyche said the program has opened her eyes to the many creative options available to her.
“The lessons that we’ve had have really helped us gain an understanding of where we want to go in our professional and creative careers,” Wyche said.
The inaugural cohorts of the program will train for three months before moving on to the next phase of the program. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic the next phase is up in the air.
“COVID has really made an impact on how we’re going to be able to proceed because so many media employers have had to do layoffs. What was really beautiful was that a lot of the smaller organizations and small production companies, and creative agencies, were like we’ll take them, we’ll hire them because a lot of the work can now be done remotely,” Levy said.
Wyche said she grateful for the program especially while dealing with social unrest and a pandemic.
“The program has really been a space of happiness and support for me during this time, with everything going on. I’m really thankful for it. It’s benefited me in lots of unique ways. It’s really been a blessing to have a space where not only you can you create stories that are meant to change and speak to the issues of social injustice but also just be a space where people are supportive of one another and care for one another during this time,” the Northwest Philadelphia resident said.