MassHire Cape & Islands Workforce Board’s (CIWB) ArtWorks program concluded its 26th year with its first-ever Awards & Celebration Night held this week at the Hyannis Yacht Club.
At the event, the CIWB presented scholarships to 12 graduating seniors from the ArtWorks program, and partnered with the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (AFCC) to recognize a mentor-mentee team that embodies the spirit of the program.
Sturgis Public Charter School senior Liam O’Keefe of Plymouth received the ArtWorks Junior Artist of the Year and Mashpee Middle-High School music teacher Andy Troyanos of Sandwich, received the ArtWorks Artist of the Year.
Each received $1,000, funded by both the CIWB and the AFCC, as part of the honor. Liam plans on using the funds to purchase a laptop that he will use not only for college, but to mix, record, and produce music.
ArtWorks pairs students in grades 9 through 12, at schools throughout Cape Cod, with an artist mentor as they receive one-on-one instruction over the course of a 40-hour internship.
Over the past two years, Troyanos has been paired with Liam, 19, who will be attending Bridgewater State College where he’ll be studying classical guitar.
“Being able to speak with Liam and see how mature he’s become and his self-confidence, it is a joy to watch that and see a student flourish with the help of a mentor,” said Kara O’Donnell-Galvin, the Executive Director at MassHire CIWB. “That is really what the mentorship is all about. The arts are such a huge part of it, but sometimes the soft skills help propel the student to what their full potential is, things like building their self-confidence and self-esteem.”
The Arts Foundation has funded the ArtWorks program in recent years through its annual grant giving.
It’s a program that AFCC Executive Director Julie Wake said, “is invaluable to showing the next generation that the arts can serve as a viable profession and that local artists are making meaningful contributions to our community. Perhaps most importantly, it nurtures students at a time in their life when mentorship can have a lasting impact on who they become as adults, personally and professionally.”
Wake was excited to deepen the AFCC’s connection to ArtWorks by recognizing participants who demonstrate the impact the program is having on students like Liam thanks to mentors like Troyanos.
“Music has always been kind of a constant in my life for as far as I can remember,” said Liam. “This is going to sound cheesy, but I feel like music has given me life in a way. It is something I can’t live without now.”
With Troyanos, Liam was able to expand his musical repertoire, meeting with him on a weekly basis since 2021. Together, they worked on guitar techniques, including variations of chords, and dipped into music theory.
He said the ArtWorks experience was one he would recommend to any student with an interest in the arts. “Your mentor, this is their profession, and they are teaching you for free the tricks of the trades,” he said. “It is a really a good place for kids to grow.”
Troyanos, who has taught music for 33 years and plays music professionally all over the Cape, is relatively new to the ArtWorks program, having become a mentor two years ago. He was introduced to it through his wife Debra, a visual arts teacher at Mashpee-Middle High School and a photographer and stained-glass artist, who has participated in ArtWorks for several years.
“I am honored,” he said of receiving this recognition. “My goal as a teacher is to enhance my students’ lives. It has nothing to do with music. If I can make a kid emotionally aware and empathetic through the arts, it is kind of like getting this award kind of says maybe I’m doing the right thing.”