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Summer program helps high school artists create professional careers in art

“It is how I navigate the world… Art connects us," said Derek Fordjour, CAM Summer Fellowship founder.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis is known for a lot things such as its food, music, and culture. One organization is adding art to the mix and getting youth involved.

Art adds accent to life. 

For Memphis native, Derek Fordjour, it etches into every aspect of being.

“It is how I navigate the world. Art connects us. And that's why I really believe in it. So, a lot of the divisions of race and class and all the things that separate us, I really believe in the power of art to build bridges to people,” said Derek Fordjour, Contemporary Arts Memphis Summer Fellowship Program Founder.

That bridge is what Fordjour strives to connect Memphis with the world, starting with youth. Fordjour started the Contemporary Arts Memphis Summer Fellowship for high school students.

“Contemporary art is art that's relevant to now, artists that are living, artists that are making art about our culture, our society right now,” said Fordjour. “Our summer program is an opportunity for kids that don't know how you go from a private studio to a museum, how you actually live a life as a professional artist.”

It is the knowledge Fordjour gained as he got older.

“It was kind of tragic that it was very tough when I came up to make a living as an artist locally,” said Fordjour.

The summer fellowship is a four-week sleepaway environment for young artists.

“They'll be able to make art, come into contact with professional arts, administrators, curators. They'll also learn a lot about how the art market works and see different models for how artists around the country create a life for themselves. And then there'll be a week of travel,” said Fordjour.

They are expanding their canvas outside the Mid-South.

“I think learning is a little more broad than what happens in institutions. So, I bring a lot of sort of real-world application,” said Fordjour. “If we can give them a roadmap before they start their journey into college, we believe that ultimately they will have a greater sustainability down the line.”

They are creating a mosaic of Memphis art for the world to see.

Applications for the CAM Summer Fellowship opens this spring. For more information, click here.