The Rapidian

Living vibrancy: ACT apprentice Colin Vanderveen

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Take a closer look at ACT apprentice Colin Vanderveen - his inspiration, his creation, and his goals.
Colin Vanderveen

Colin Vanderveen

About the apprenticeship program

ACT’s apprenticeship program is designed to provide high caliber, intensive art apprenticeships to eight young artists with disabilities from the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Transition Campus. Artists are gaining experience under the direction of professional teaching artist Becky Baker.

Colin's multimedia piece, "C"

Colin's multimedia piece, "C"

Colin at the GRAM

Colin at the GRAM

“When I draw, I feel good.”

Colin Vanderveen was in the midst of wrapping up some of his semester-long projects when we asked him if he would be able to talk with us about his art and the apprenticeship program. Colin was more than happy to multitask between painting and speaking on his craft.

Colin is just one of eight from the ACT apprenticeship program, launched in October, designed to provide high caliber, intensive art apprenticeships to young artists with disabilities from the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Community Transition Campus. So far, he has enjoyed his time with the program and what it offers those who are involved.

“I was excited about the program,” Colin told us. “I was excited I got to do it.”

Colin started creating art when he was 20 years old. He fondly remembers making birdhouses with his dad and painting them, but through the apprenticeship program, he has acquired several other mediums. He uses a wide range of materials, including paint, mod-podge, and fabrics and a wide range of techniques, including hand painting. Throughout the course of the apprenticeship program, Colin has produced a diverse set of work—some portraits, some abstract drawings, and some landscapes.

The particular morning that we interviewed Colin, the apprentices also worked with ACT teaching artist Nora Faber, most well-known for her clayboard pieces. During the class, Nora showed the ACT apprentices her process and different tools she uses, providing more opportunities for the apprentices to explore the artistry and creativity. Colin in particular was drawn to Nora’s demonstration.

“I like the textures,” Colin said, both about Nora’s work and his own work as an artist. “I like art because it’s pretty.”

Colin’s artwork often features animals, particularly spiders. He looks to the environment for his inspiration, but tries to incorporate intricate spiders and spider webs in most of his paintings. This adds an extra level of focused passion to his work.

One of the captivating features of Colin’s artwork is the color red—most of his pieces from the program incorporate red in some way, even if it is not the feature color. This makes vibrancy a core value to Colin’s work; his paintings always draws eyes at art shows, and always incite some sort of passionate emotion in viewers. Overall, Colin’s constant use of warm colors makes his pieces uniquely his, reflecting his warm personality.

Through the apprenticeship program, the artists are able to work and train under a teacher who has experience as a professional artist. They will gain experience in arts administration, professional development and artistic training. Through gaining this experience, the artists learn crucial skills for their careers in art, such as writing an artists' statement, marketing work on social media, and displaying work, as well as honing their natural artistic ability.

The ACT Apprentices will be holding several art shows this spring. Join us to see Colin’s artwork on display, as well as the seven other apprentices, at the final reception, celebrating the apprentices and all their hard work:

Thursday, April 27th at Lions & Rabbits, 1264 Plainfield Ave. NE, 5 p.m.-7 p.m.

To support Colin and his artwork, visit

This article is part 6 of 8 in ACT’s series highlighting each individual apprentice throughout the coming weeks. This program is provided as part of a contract with VSA at the Kennedy Center. Follow ACT on Facebook to stay tuned to learn more about the other apprentices.

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