Donovan Dodds and Darren Mann have been artists since they were little. Donovan became an actor when he was 5 and Darren started drawing seriously at 3.

Now they are in high school and into something big – a first-of-its-kind drive to get Atlanta teens actively and deeply engaged in the wide world of the arts.

It’s the Wells Fargo ArtsVibe Teen Program at the Woodruff Arts Center. It’s by teens and for teens, and it’s the first time the four divisions of the Woodruff – the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Alliance Theatre and Young Audiences – have worked together on an initiative.

The idea is to get 15,000 teens from all parts of Atlanta involved in the full spectrum of the arts. Wells Fargo made a $2 million donation to the Woodruff to support the program for five years.

“ArtsVibe is a way to dive deep into what I love and meet people who share the same passions – and to be inspired,” said Darren, a 17-year-old at Pebblebrook High School in Mableton. Darren now creates abstract paintings in acrylic on canvas with shapes and symbols that are “designed to make people think.”

He lists Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein as major influences. And he never thought about becoming involved with the Woodruff Arts Center until ArtsVibe. Now he, along with Donovan, are on the ArtsVibe Teen Council. ArtsVibe will have its coming-out party on Friday and Saturday, April 26 and 27, with a two-day teen takeover of the Woodruff called Voices and Vibes.

On Friday the best teen talent in Atlanta will take the stage at Symphony Hall and compete for the top prize, American Idol-style. Saturday afternoon will be a “teen hangout” day with live music, dancing, drum circles, workshops and more. It’s all free, and as many as 3,000 teens are expected at the Woodruff.

Free tickets for Friday evening’s event are at http://www.artsvibe.com. On Saturday, no advance tickets are required.

“I’m really excited about Voices & Vibes,” said Donovan, a 16-year-old at the Galloway School. “It’s a cool way to get teens to the Woodruff for a two-day party and introduce them to ArtsVibe. And I love ArtsVibe because it gives teens a comfortable space to create and share their art.”

Said Mike Donnelly, Atlanta region president for Wells Fargo, “You hear so much the need for constructive activities for teens. This is the ticket — and it’s all free. This combines three things that are important to us – kids, education and the arts – and it will help our young people be successful in life.”

(Photo: Darren Mann)

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