Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts
Founded in 1999 on the idea that the mind should be used to promote the arts among youth and adults, the Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts or ALMA was born. The program provides paid training for youth using the mosaic arts. Youth ages 15 to 25 are employed to create world-class, handmade tile for large to small mosaic artworks. The finished product also provides an opportunity for the community to engage with the mosaic process.
ALMA pairs the apprentices with professional artists who teach design, carving, crafting tiles from clay and kiln firing during the annual 10-week program. The apprentices have created mosaics at the northwest corner of Tijeras and Second Street in Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Convention Center, the University of New Mexico Hospital, as well as a public mural in Las Cruces.
“We thoroughly enjoy bringing in youth and providing them art jobs so they can see this is a viable career,” said ALMA Co-Director Margaret Paz-Pedro, who has been with the program since 2009. Margaret, who is an art and ceramics teacher with Albuquerque Public Schools, is one of two art teachers and three co-directors heading up the ALMA program.
“We show them every step and then really get them to be in a community of other like-minded fellow artistic peers. That’s also enlightening so they can say I’m not the only one—there are others sharing this passion and I get paid for it,” Margaret said.
Though students are shown artistic skills, they are also learning on-the-job transferable skills, such as how to work with others, general workplace expectations, being on time, concentration without no cell phones, what to wear, how to talk, and what is appropriate and not appropriate. Some students will also receive financial literacy, CPR or first aid training. During the summer of 2019, students also received an introduction to entrepreneurship as some were looking to sell their own artwork.
More than 150 students have participated in the program since inception, and each year ALMA receives more than four-dozen applications from area high schools, including students from Central New Mexico Community College and the University of New Mexico.
With the help of The Loan Fund, ALMA has had a fiscal sponsor as well as a line of credit, and has increased that line of credit in recent years. ALMA has now received its nonprofit status from the IRS and looking to continue growing the program after two decades.
“It’s been great to establish a line of credit because we couldn’t run a program without a line of credit,” said Cassandra Reid, ALMA Executive Director, said at an organizational open house in July 2019. “This year is our 20th year of running the program.”