Launching Artworks:  Artist Interns Take on New Challenges

Launching Artworks: Artist Interns Take on New Challenges

ArtWorks began with a question: if we envision a future in which Multicolores artists fill key roles in the organization’s administration and leadership, what can we do now to make that vision a reality?

Launched last month, ArtWorks is an immersive, practical, hands-on learning experience that complements the artists’ artistic growth. Over the course of our year-long pilot program, four rug hookers and four embroiderers will work in the office alongside Multicolores staff to develop professional skills related to the sale and promotion of their art pieces and non-profit administration.

We have amazing, hardworking, artistic, smart women at Multicolores! And we’re always looking for new ways to help them realize their potential.

The context: underrepresentation and lack of opportunities for Maya women 

Maya women continue to face discrimination and social exclusion, particularly in the areas of education and economic participation. On average, Maya women in Guatemala complete just 3 years of schooling (less than half of the national average of 6.5 years) and 48% of Maya women are illiterate. According to our internal surveys, Multicolores artists studied an average of 4.8 years. Many wanted to continue their studies but faced economic barriers, or needed to work or assume responsibility for household maintenance. Women in Guatemala perform an average of 36 hours of unpaid labor per week.

“I always wanted to study more, but I didn’t have the opportunity,” shared Micaela during her pre-internship mock interview. It was the first time she and Hilda had sat for a job interview– one of many new experiences.

While we are confident in the artists’ many talents and limitless potential, most artists have not had the opportunity to put their intelligence and creativity to work in an office setting.  Our goal for ArtWorks: to support the artists in building their professional skills.

Learning from peer organizations on the other side of the world

In the initial phases of imagining ArtWorks, the Multicolores team met with staff and artisans from The Anou, an artisan organization in Morocco. Nine years ago, The Anou implemented an Artisan Leaders program in which representatives from each of their different cooperatives take turns working in The Anou office. Over time, Artisan Leaders have become experts in the processes of quality control, shipping, customer service, and handling materials. Over Zoom, staff and Artisan Leaders shared advice about how to implement a successful program. Artisan Leaders shared how the opportunity to learn new skills, represent their cooperative, and earn a stipend were all incentives to try something outside their comfort zone.

Our first artist interns: Hilda and Micaela 

Hilda Garcia

Meet our first pair of interns: Hilda García is a rug hooking artist, leader of the Totonicapán group, and graduate of the three-year Leadership Program. Micaela Yaj Sunú is an embroidery artist and leader of the Santiago Atitlán group. Both joined Multicolores years ago after being contacted by a friend, and now agree that Multicolores is like their family. Micaela and Hilda have each been with Multicolores a long time and have been given more responsibility and trust as they go. As Hilda explained, “We began dipping one toe in the water and now both of our feet are in… soon we’ll be in the water completely!”

Before working as a rug hooking artist, Hilda had never before had a job. She liked the idea of not having to leave her family unattended while she worked from home on her rugs. She and Micaela both realized that they liked being paid immediately after delivering their work, which is not always the case.

Micaela says: “I had only imagined something like the internship program, but I never thought it would actually happen. Our dreams and opportunities want to take us even further.”

On the job

Micaela Yaj Sunú

Micaela and Hilda’s internship journey began with a mock job interview to discuss their skills, experience, and goals. In January they spent their first week in the office, working on tasks including inventory updates, new product design, shipping orders, and completing financial reports. This month, they will shadow Social Programs Coordinator Aura Perez Can, learning about reporting and data collection.

“My priority for today is to pay attention to each and every process, be as active as possible, learn new things and give the very best of myself.” – Micaela

Speaking about the newest step of their trajectory within Multicolores, Hilda and Micaela both noted that they enjoy being part of the creative process, contributing to new product development, and being trained constantly. They both set goals to become more comfortable typing and using computers during their internship.

“One thing I learned today is that everyone on the Multicolores team is willing to share information and explain processes to us to help us accomplish our tasks. By paying attention, being curious, and working together, we’ve successfully accomplished all of the tasks we’ve been assigned.” – Hilda

In April, Hilda and Micaela will pass the torch to the next pair of interns after completing 120 hours of in-office work! In addition to their practical tasks, artists also work on setting goals, teamwork, determining priorities, and time management skills. By the end of their internship, they will have an updated CV detailing their professional skills.

Thank you to our wonderful community members who donated to our end-of-year campaign to make ArtWorks a reality. We appreciate your investment in this dream!

Micaela and Hilda working together in the Multicolores office
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