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Ashley Lowery, Deseret News
Caitlin Cacciatore, left, Damaris Moreno, Cristyna Galar, Jessica Budke and Evander Cavazos at work.

Four days before it was due, the five young art apprentices were busy working on the finishing, and in some cases, beginning touches of their art project.

Apprentices Jessica Budke, 15, Cristyna Galarza, 14, and Damaris Moreno, 17, hovered over a concrete box with a drill, screwdrivers and a hammer. They were trying to tear out the wood board that was cemented in the bottom.

"We're becoming obsessive," said Budke.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Cacciatore, 17, and Evander Cavazos, 20, were breaking a very old gourd and strategically placing it in a box that had a baby slathered in petroleum jelly placed in a nest. One of the last things they had to do for the project was chop up and bottle the pigs' feet.

Turning common objects into works of art. This is the Bad Dog Art Apprenticeship Program — another creation of Michael Moonbird and Victoria Lyon, founders and directors of Bad Dog Rediscovers America art program.

"We want to help kids learn about and appreciate art," Moonbird said.

The Bad Dog apprenticeship gets youths involved with art in a way they can't in a school setting. It combines the skills of professional artists with the creativity of teenagers who have to dream up and create a collaborative art project for display in a culminating exhibition. Two apprenticeship groups have already completed major projects — a wall mural and a cut-glass piece.

The third apprenticeship group started May 30. By the time they finished this summer, they had one less member, a different teacher, a project idea and an exhibit location.

"There is one guarantee in life," Lyons said. "Things will change."

At least it was true for the Bad Dog apprentices. Their first unexpected change came on the fourth day, just after they finished a rendering of their first project idea.

"The artist teacher for the group left the project," Moonbird said.

It was a shock to everyone.

"This has never happened before," Lyons said. She said the teacher had her reasons.

The teacher's abandonment cast a shadow on the otherwise cheerful atmosphere at the Bad Dog studio that day. But the apprentices were unanimous in their vote — the project should continue, which brought them to the next bump.

The teacher had not secured a spot in the recent Utah Arts Festival board.

"The arts festival is off," said Moonbird, who took the place of the artist/teacher for the project.

But the apprentices were still optimistic.

"There's more potential in this group," said Galarza, the youngest apprentice.

So they set their sights on the Sugar House Arts Festival.

Meanwhile, one of the apprentices had also dropped out to pursue her own art projects.

Solo art projects, summer jobs and family plans often made it difficult for all the apprentices to coordinate meeting times. Budke said she keeps busy with baby-sitting and other family things, but her parents are very supportive of her apprenticeship.

"They are always asking what we are doing," Budke said.

Budke likes to paint and draw, but her medium of choice is pastels.

"If this is a disaster," Budke said, joking after the group had to start over on another project idea, "maybe I won't go in to art."

By the end of day five, the remaining five apprentices went back to the drawing board.

Moonbird and Lyons knew that the apprenticeship would not be easy. They constantly reminded the group that they were committed to make the apprenticeship an "awesome experience."

"As far as I'm concerned," Lyons said, "this project is moving forward."

One purpose of the Bad Dog apprenticeship is to prepare kids, or as Lyon called them "citizens in waiting," for the future.

"Corporations and community leaders always say they want the most creative people in their company," Moonbird said. "But they're squashing kids' creativity at an early age. We're doing whatever we can to reverse that, change that."

But changing the world has its challenges.

"There's not enough time," Lyons said, "to say all the things that have challenged us in keeping the program running."

Back at the studio, the apprentices continued working on the art project — boxes made and filled with different materials representing Hidden Hollow in Sugar House.

"We're thinking inside the box," Cavazos said, and the other teen apprentices laughed.

As the deadline grew closer, so did the group. Cacciatore said the whole project would have been different if the original teacher had stayed with the group.

"This was a lot more self-directed," Cacciatore said. "She had a lot more opinions."

Moonbird and Lyons had offered guidance for the apprentices along the way but, Lyons said, the youths have ownership of the project.

"Every artist has a different way to go about structuring the way they work with the kids," Lyons said. "We feel it's important for these teens to find out their own voice."

Although they kept changing, things worked out for the Bad Dog Art apprentices. The morning of the July 4 festival in Sugar House, the five young art apprentices sat down in the shade after finishing the installation, relieved to be done with the project.

"It's not what I expected," Budke said. "I like it."

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