Art on the Block artists work on crafting the Lerner Black Hill mosaic. Credit: Courtesy Arts on the Block

Silver Spring-based Arts on the Block will celebrate 20 years of training and encouraging young people, primarily teenagers, in creating public art. The specialized programs help students hone their creative skills and learn how to navigate the business side of art.

Festivities will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday in Arts on the Block’s studio at the Brigadier General Charles E. McGee Library, 900 Wayne Ave. in Silver Spring. Tickets range from $35 to $90.

AOB Chairman Christopher Barclay of Silver Spring said the celebration marks a major milestone for the organization.

“It’s a really unique program,” Barclay said. “We create beautiful art.”

The event includes activities such as creating mosaic picture frames, making prints, and writing down thoughts at an art therapy station. It will also feature speakers, with local and state officials expected as well as artists and alumni.

Arts on the Block offers young artists the opportunity to work on commissions, learn the business of art and improve across a range of life skills that can help them move forward in the future, said founder Jan Goldstein.


Apprentices can be paid to develop work through the arts, an eye-opening practice for young artists, Goldstein said. Students generally work on projects such as murals and mosaics.

“Not only are we teaching the art of mosaic building, but working with clients,” Goldstein said. “The most unique thing is to have those client experiences and to be able to say `I was part of making this mosaic that is now out in the world for the public to see every day. I worked on that.’ That’s an amazing experience.”

Rose Jaffe, a mural painter and art teacher, who was an AOB student in its early years, said she valued not only the artistic training, but the job training the program offered, such as interviewing and resume writing.


“There was the making of the art, the conceiving art and the production of it” in collaboration with other young people, Jaffe said. “And I really loved that Art on the Block had a job training element for me, as a high-schooler. I really wasn’t getting that from any other program.”

Jaffe now works out of her own studio.

Goldstein said the program has its roots in a need for young people to not only make art, but also make their way in the world. She founded the program in 2003 based on a similar program in Chicago.


“We needed something like that in Montgomery County,” she said. “Young people needed the opportunity to work with real working artists, gain confidence in their own creative abilities, learn transferable skills and problem solving. There seemed like a crying need.”

Barclay said in the past 20 years, AOB has worked with more than 1,000 young people, with studios in Kensington, Wheaton and Silver Spring. The group is funded by commissions, grants and donations.

AOB apprentices join what are known as studio crews, led by master teaching artists and supported by a team of management professionals. The group also provides art programs for children in kindergarten through eighth grade.


Youth in the project have created murals and mosaics throughout the county, including public and private commissions, said Barclay.

In Silver Spring, work by teens can be seen on the walls of United Therapeutics and mosaics on benches along Ellsworth Place. Young artists also have designed mosaics on the Wheaton Clock Tower.

Among other projects, Art on the Block has also made it possible for apprentices to create art in Germantown’s Black Hill Community.


More murals and mosaics can be seen at the Cabin John Village Chase Bank branch in Potomac and the Diamond Farm Skate Park in Gaithersburg.

Peter Tabri, a master mosaic craftsman who has been undertaking the physical art of installing mosaic designs for AOB for more than a decade, said students work closely with clients to determine the designs that will be installed.

Young artists may design more images than a client needs and then [clients] “pick and choose,” he said. “They are the ones to see which ones they like.”


And designs by young artists benefit the communities where they are created, Tabri said.

“Their images tell stories.”’