Richmond Art Center provides a blank canvas for community creativity and learning
on October 2, 2014
“Pinch and pull, pinch and pull” was the constant mantra of 12 kids molding their clay on a sunny afternoon. Each student was given a block of clay, water, molding tools and freedom to make their own clay birds.
At the Richmond City Library, Marie Kamali, a multimedia artist, teaches kids ages 6-9 years old how to make clay sculptures as part of an art in community program.
Art in Community provides career readiness to future artists by aiming to “bring the art-making experience to the community [and] encourage people to see art as a lifelong pursuit,” Community Programs Director Rebeca García-González said.
An outgrowth of the Richmond Art Center, the program provides after-school art training to schools and community centers within the city of Richmond. Art programs usually last 4-8 weeks per semester and admission is free for children and teens. Students are limited to 10-14 per class to make sure that the artist-teachers have time for everyone.
Starting with 5 programs in 2012, Richmond Art Center currently has grown to 16 art in community programs running today. Local program sites decide on the kind of art program they want. Funding comes from the City of Richmond, local businesses and Parent-Teacher Associations.
According to Rebeca, out of the 450 enrolled students, 80% are Latinos and 20% are African-Americans.
During class, each student pinched a part of clay and pulled it to form a wing, then repeated it to make a pair. Their clay birds cannot fly, of course, but it did not matter to these children. They had the choice to create, and so their imaginations soared.
“The risk of being creative, which we lose as we get older,” Marie said, “the kids just have it.” Marie said that it was faith that brought her to meeting Rebeca and the introduction to the art in community program. “Faith in the sense that I believed there was a place for my passion, working with and teaching children, art,” she said.
Marie used to create environmental installations before getting involved with the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) program in Richmond, where she wrote a curriculum linking sciences and art. After years of living a “lucrative life” of art culture, Marie “realized doing something like this [teaching] held a deep sense of well being within.”
The STEAM program, tied to the Common Core, has been essential to the community program. It acknowledges art and design in learning different subjects. Art is the “glue to learning,” Richmond Art Center Executive Director Ric Ambrose said.
Each student carefully places their molded clay birds on plates and Marie collects them in a box ready for glazing. Students are also taught how to be responsible with their materials and the room. Several students cleaned-up after their class.
“Think of the Richmond Art Center as a person – one arm in exhibitions and one arm in education,” Rebeca said. That person is aiming that the little ones walk out of the room not only with “pinch and pull” thoughts, but also a further sense of freedom ready for their flight to creativity and learning.
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