Kids attending the after-school program at the Northeast Youth Center in Hillyard now have the opportunity to participate in an artist-in-residence program three days a week.
Last week the children were marbling small clay cups and pots they had made in a previous session. They put drops of different colors of paint in a pitcher of water and then dipped and swirled their creations in the paint that lay on the surface of the water.
In between cups they used a piece of paper to skim the remaining paint off the water so the next person could select a new palette of colors. They seemed excited by the process and the end result, which included paint-covered hands that had to be scrubbed clean.
“We just started this the second week of October,” said center director Kate Green. “It’s a brand-new program. The kids absolutely love it.”
A group of artists reached out to see if the center had any interest in artists coming to teach the students and Green was thrilled by the opportunity. “We do arts and crafts every day after school but it’s not something we have much skill in,” she said.
So far the center has been able to get donations to pay for art supplies and the artists have also donated some, Green said.
The center has 90 children enrolled in its before- and after-school program. So many have expressed interest in the sessions with the artists every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday that they have to rotate through a list, Green said.
“They’re very interested,” she said.
Artist Shiree Ross has been coming to the center every Tuesday. She owns Pyrofine Arts and specializes in oil painting and sculptures. She said she was contacted by a local gallery owner to see if she was interested in the program.
“He contacted me to see if I wanted to do it and I was all over it,” Ross said. “I love it. The kids love it. We’ve been having a ton of fun.”
Artists Katrina Brennan and Janie Edwards have also been participating in the artist-in-residence program the other two days of the week. Each comes once a week so they can work with the children on ongoing projects.
Starting with the cup project was a way to introduce sculpture to the children, Ross said. “The majority of them haven’t done any of this yet,” she said. “I’m trying to introduce a few concepts. This is just little things to get their hands on it and learn the techniques.”
Marbling is growing in popularity. The procedure Ross usually uses for the process involves different materials and is more complicated. “This is a really watered-down version of it,” she said.
Ross said she’d like to move onto a larger sculpture project with the children but plans to ask them what they would like to work on. “I don’t want to enforce what I want to do,” she said.
The artists and the center agreed to a six-week trial run and will evaluate the program after that so see if it will continue, Ross said. She would like it to keep going, she said.
“I want to do more,” she said. “It also depends on funding.”
Ross said she believes art can teach children many important things, including social skills. “It helps them be more creative,” she said.
She said she’s just glad to be able to introduce art to the children at the center. “This is great for them,” she said. “So many art programs are being cut off.”
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