Fostering The Arts Through 410 Project Youth Mentorship Program

Nora Sturgis showing her oil painting with Dana Sikkila in the background.

By Joe Steck – Mankato Times

MANKATO, MINN. — The warm spring temperatures brought young artists outside to paint as part of the 410 Project’s Youth Mentorship Program.

Dana Sikkila, executive director of the 410 Project took advantage of the beautiful weather Wednesday evening to help stimulate the minds of two young budding artists, Nora Sturgis and Bella Anton. Sikkila set up the easel and a blank canvas in front of the 410 Project and had the young artists pick a subject to paint using oil paints.

Throughout the process, Sikkila helped bring out the creativity in Sturgis and Anton, helping to foster an appreciation for the visual aesthetics while teaching them basic techniques and terminology of painting.

“What is texture?” Sikkila asked Sturgis

“Texture could be bumpy or jagged. It makes your painting look like what it would feel like if you could touch it.” Said Sturgis.

Bella Anton matching her paint color to that of the bike rack.

While some may regard art education as a luxury, this simple creative activity offered through the 410 Project helps promote skills important in academic and life success.  

“We help foster art terminology as well as a little art history, even with our younger students,” said Sikkila “For this age group, we normally meet once a week for an hour, which seems to be a good amount of time to complete a project/idea session.”

Sikkila says that every session has a focus on different creative building and materials.

“It’s not just technical building we focus on but more positive and creative thinking through art.”

Olivia Sirek watches as Bella Anton works on her painting.

Students receive other benefits from the 410 Project Youth Mentorship Program.

In the short time I spent with Sikkila and 410 Project volunteer Olivia Sirek, I was able to see them bring out creativity, confidence, non-verbal communication, motor skills, problem solving, visual learning and inventiveness from Sturgis and Anton – skills that can and will be used throughout the students’ academic life and beyond.

Thank you Dana and all of the 410 Project volunteers who are helping to bring the arts to the area youth. Your efforts are paying dividends and are helping to make the Mankato area the shining star of the Midwest.

If you have questions about the 410 Project Youth Mentorship Program email Dana at 

The 410 Project, 523 S. Front Street, Mankato, is a volunteer managed community art space, serving both artists and community members through southern Minnesota. Offering the opportunity for all people to understand and value the arts through innovative experiences with contemporary art. Through exhibitions, programs, and special projects, 410 Project present a welcoming, integrated, and diverse experience that encourages questioning, creativity, and critical thinking.  To learn more about the 410 Project visit or see them on Facebook.




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