Yeck, not yuck

Students mentor students in DAI’s Yeck Fellowship

By Jimaur Calhoun

Photo: Artwork (from left to right) created by Allison Parrish, Stephanie Tyson, Christa Cape, and Jessie Karlsberger; (group from left to right) Christa Cape, Jessie Karlsberger, Stephanie Tyson, and Allison Parrish taught high school students at the DAI; photos courtesy of the artists and Eric Brockman

When I was in high school, a long, long time ago, I had a few artist friends who could have used their skills to further themselves—but because no one was around to give them a push, they never made anything of those skills. In college, I knew art majors who felt underappreciated in their major and settled into regular nine to five jobs. While I’ll never knock anyone with a nine to five job because the majority of people in the world, myself included, need them to live, I feel like my classmates, and others like them, could have done so much more with some guidance.

The Dayton Art Institute has an exhibition that could inspire students to follow their artistic passion, whether in high school or college. The art displayed is that of the institute’s Yeck College Artist Fellowship, a yearly program that selects four college art students to teach and mentor 12 select high school students. The mentors provide intensive instructional studio classes for high school students, giving the college students a chance to share their own artistic knowledge.

“We already had a middle school program at the Dayton Art Institute, but the Yeck Fellowship program was established in 2000 to expand on the program to high school and college students,” Susan Martis, curator of education at the DAI, says.

The purpose of the Yeck Fellowship is to give regional college students the opportunity to do two things: develop teaching skills by teaching high school students in the spring and give them an opportunity to create bodies of artwork to hang in the museum for several weeks.

“I was so excited before the program even started,” Allison Parrish, a former University of Dayton student, says. Since her time in the program, Parrish has gone on to become a studio artist and assistant at Front Street warehouse. “I believe I was able to make an impact along with my fellow mentors. We were able to give the high school students we mentored the opportunity to explore their artistic interest outside of school. We wanted to show these kids that they can go to school, get an art degree, and do something with it.”

Jessie Karlsberger, a mentor from Wright State University, says he found his time in Yeck rewarding. “It’s always hard to be sure whether or not I made an impact on the lives of the children I mentored,” he says. “I liked pushing them to break out of their comfort zone because that was a method that was taught to me when I was their age. I hope it sticks with them.”

“The Yeck Fellowship program has presented me with an invaluable experience that I am eternally grateful for,” mentor Stephanie Tyson of Wright State says. In a junket for the exhibition, Tyson says, “The process of creation is the most important part of my work. Gradually throughout the formation of a piece, both the materials and I enter a state of flux, a steady and subtle change from a raw state to a work of art.”

When discussing what the Yeck Fellowship means to the art institute and the city of Dayton, Martis says, “The fellowship is named after the Yeck family, who established all of the Yeck programs the institute holds. In part, it builds on the history of the Dayton Art Institute. The fellowship is a wonderful way for the art institute to support young artists in the community. From middle to college, we like to think of the Yeck Fellowship as a career path that one could take.”

The mentors in the program teach high school students about art, as well as motivate them to make a possible career of it. “A lot of the times, I think it’s discouraged, especially in high school, to want to push a students’ interest in visual arts,” Parrish says. “And so for the students to see us as role models, for the lack of a better word, actually pursuing a visual arts degree is very beneficial to them.”

“For me, it was a way to break into the concept of teaching and take what we’ve learned in undergraduate school and share it so we could teach other people,” Karlsberger says. “For the students, it was a way for them to get accustomed to working with other people in studio settings while working on projects that had goals and deadlines.”

“For the high school students, I want to give them an in-depth experience in media and small group format that they might not receive in their respected high school,” Martis says. “This kind of activity could give the students a reflection of their work that is only possible when there are a few students to each mentor. For college students, this is really an invaluable experience for what it takes to teach and the good that can come from the program.”

The Yeck College Artist Fellow Exhibition will be on view until Sept. 4. For more information on the Yeck Fellowship Program, please visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Jimaur Calhoun at

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Reach DCP freelance writer Jimaur Calhoun at

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