Art For The Heart!

The second day of my Odyssey Week made me flashback to fun summers at camp! At the Carpenter Art Garden, children are invited to explore and discover new things through ongoing art and garden projects. This once empty lot serves as a wonderful meeting spot for the children and adults in Binghampton, a neighborhood lacking in safe community spaces. In addition to the garden, they offer tutoring, small group art lessons, a studio space, and after school clubs every day at their Purple House. The organization hopes to acquire additional property for expansion and to add an indoor workshop. While exploring the importance of creative expression, I also gained valuable insight into how collaboration can be a powerful tool.

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the children constructed rainbows attached to pots of gold and leprechaun beards and hats for the look o’ the Irish. Each piece was unique – and that’s why I love art. Art and creativity play such important roles in the human experience, helping people not only respect themselves but also others. In Carpenter Art Garden’s mission statement, they mention the desire to promote each child’s creative potential and self-worth through art. I could see that the children have the freedom to express themselves and build upon their strengths. While Destyne colored her leprechaun hat green, Chinita didn’t hesitate to use all of the colors of the rainbow. I appreciate how the Carpenter Art Garden celebrates individualism and diversity through their projects.

I was really looking forward to a crafty afternoon (a.k.a. crafternoon) at the art garden. Art has helped me make meaningful connections with others, as well as, observe and describe the world around me. When I was a summer camp counselor, I enjoyed organizing and managing art activities and sharing my love for self-expression. I’ve learned through my mom’s teaching career in music how the arts can have a profound effect on children’s development. Studies have shown that children can develop important thinking, problem-solving, and language skills through creative activities. Though arts programs are often the first to go in school districts’ budget cuts, I’m happy that we have organizations like the Carpenter Art Garden to step in and make up for the deficit in arts programming. The garden is a unique place that offers opportunities for all children to learn and engage. It’s hard to believe that this space of hope and opportunity was once an abandoned lot! My afternoon with the children and volunteers at the art garden reaffirmed everything I knew about the benefits of the arts and reminded me that so much can be achieved through collaborative efforts. As they say in the garden, “Teamwork makes the dream work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagination Running Wild

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As I drove home from the Carpenter Art Garden today, I noticed paint under my fingernails. After a day spent with kids painting pictures of trees, making paper snowflakes and chatting about life the way only a kid can see it, I wasn’t surprised. The Carpenter Art Garden is a magical space – a purple house with craft supplies from floor to ceiling, an outdoor space to play and a community garden for kids to connect with the earth. I can understand why kids line up outside the door every Tuesday after school to get a chance to come inside.

20150224_164837Carpenter Art Garden

I always enjoy spending time with children – listening to them laugh, watching their creativity and talking to them about their lives. I love being surrounded by the barely controlled chaos that always happens with kids.

20150224_160640Lovely artwork

I got to spend some quality time with a special little girl today. I was drawn to her beautiful smile with one newly missing tooth and the pink tree she was painting. We talked about how both our birthdays are in October, how she just turned seven and the fact that she wants to be a singer when she grows up. She said her favorite song is a Hello Kitty song she made up. I commented that it was incredible that she had written a song and that was the first time she told me “You just have to let your imagination run wild.” The second time came when she told me that she had never seen a pink tree, but she wanted to paint one. And that is why I love talking to kids – they remind me of the important things in life.

20150224_154306Aaliyah, a little girl with a big imagination

Before I left, I helped another girl make her first paper snowflake and dodged the play attacks of a stuffed dog. I will always be in awe of places like the Carpenter Art Garden that inspire such creativity in kids, and by the passion of the people who run them.

So when I saw that little bit of paint under my fingernails on my way home, I smiled and knew that little bit of paint meant that I had a really good afternoon. Isn’t that what the little seven-year old singer with the big imagination would have thought? A little paint under your fingernails means you let your imagination run wild. And I think all of us adults need a little more of that in our lives.

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Day 3: Anyone can make the simple complicated.

Cristalynne had instant flashbacks of when she was introduced to the art of yarn wrapping as a kid. She had the chance to bring that joy of learning to the children of the Carpenter Art Garden.

I had instant flashbacks of when I was introduced to the art of yarn wrapping as a kid. I had the chance to bring that joy of learning to the children of the Carpenter Art Garden.

The kids create visual artworks that add life to the Carpenter Art Garden.

Once completed this yarn wrap art will say, “The Carpenter Art Garden.” It is signage for the Garden’s vending booth at the Cooper-Young Festival. The kids will be able to sell there artwork.

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The kids taught me how to make a 3-D image of her hand. In exchange, I plan to come back and teach them something new and fun in art!

“Anyone can make the simple complicated. Creativity is making the complicated simple.” Charles Mingus, Jazz Icon.

After stepping out of my truck on Carpenter Street, it could be said that when my feet hit the pavement that I was now in the rough. Considering that Carpenter Street had earned the reputation of being one of the roughest streets in the Binghamton neighborhood. Be that as it may, I was only moments from stepping into a diamond, the Carpenter Art Garden.

I was introduced to the Garden by its organizer, Erin Harris. The Garden is a breath of fresh air across from a school where art classes are no longer offered. It’s a creative Mecca for an average of more than 60 students after school. It’s also a community connecting factor, prior to its existence some neighbors had never even known the other’s name.

Selecting my area for helping children with art projects wasn’t a difficult choice as I was greeted by the eyes and smile of child that was working on a yarn and nail art project. I was instantly taken back to when I was around her age working on a similar project in art class. We would be making a sign that says, “The Art Garden.”  It would be used for the Garden’s booth at the Cooper-Young Festival, where the children would be able to sell their art.

I appreciated being able to talk and share with the children, I was humbled by their excitement and questions when I told them that I was an artist. I could only smile when some of the other volunteers were taken aback when I showed them photos of my artwork and then told them that I’ve never gone to school for my craft. It’s only something that I’ve been able to do since birth as it has evolved over the years.

Eyes lit up when I told several of the program’s planners that I’m interested in possibly teaching an art class for the children. I’ll return to the Garden when a local artist will teach a drawing class for kids. I’ll be there just to watch the class in progress and take notes for myself on walking with children as they move further into their creative abilities just as what was done for me as child.

The classes will be in “The Purple House.”  Though the Carpenter Art Garden planned to refurbish the previous purple house to coincide with the surrounding Gardens, previously drug infested, it had become unsalvageable. As the Garden became more popular for children in the community and they learned of the plans to build a new house, they contended that the house had to be purple. Thus we now have “The Purple House.”

With the Art Garden on one side of The Purple House, on the opposite side, you will find a community garden with fruits and vegetables; it’s just as colorful as the Art Garden.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? With more than 10 years experience, Cristalynne Dupree is searching for a job where she will use her marketing, public relations and communications skill to coordinate strategies and tactics that will reach and engage the organization’s target audience.  Contact her at 1225Cristalynne@gmail.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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Day Two: Carpenter Art Garden

I went home with a full heart today after volunteering at the Carpenter Art Garden.

When I arrived just before three, I met with Erin, the program coordinator. Erin she showed me around the property where every Tuesday, volunteers work with approximately 40 children in the Binghampton neighborhood. She explained the success the program has seen with the children, and the community as a whole. When school lets out for the day, children flood the small garden space to work on permanent art installations, craft projects, and tending to the garden boxes. As the program grew with students at Cornerstone Preparatory and Lester Middle School, parents began to take more interest in the program.

In the two years of the program, the Carpenter Garden has expanded to four lots including gardens, picnic tables for crafts, a stage for performing, outdoor mosaic sculptures, and “the purple house”. The purple house is new, and students are eager to see the interior. As an investment for the program, the children participated in the fundraising by selling their art. Erin led me over to the students’ best seller: a large plywood heart with the Memphis Grizzlies’ logo. In my short time in Memphis, this was a familiar sight: my next door neighbor proudly sports the Memphis Grizzlies heart in their front yard.

The Carpenter Art Garden

The Carpenter Art Garden

As a camp counselor for over six summers, my role today of overseeing one of the craft stations at the garden came naturally. There were four activities to choose from, in addition to snack, free reading and general play on the grounds. While I offered loose guidance to the craft, I had the chance to talk to a lot of children about their participation in the art garden. A reoccurring theme was the appreciation of having an ‘art class’. This is unlike any class offered in their standard school day, so students look forward to a chance to create something on Tuesdays after school.

Making signs for the growing garden.

Making signs for the growing garden.

As parents filtered in at the end of the day, many sat down at a picnic table and worked on a craft with their child. A few children lingered as we cleaned up, explaining they lived near the garden so they liked to stay as late as they could. “Maybe since I’m good at this and I’m young, I could keep painting when I’m older?” one student proposed, looking up from her garden project very unsure. I assured her that anything was possible.

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Our final work!

Our final work!

Carpenter Art Garden is a place for growth and rejuvenation. Watching children ease in to their projects at the end of the school day, anyone can identify the confidence cultivated in this unique environment. I feel privileged to have been able to work with the children and faithful volunteers at The Carpenter Art Garden so early in my odyssey.

Thank you for reading! Like what you read? Megan Banaszek is searching for a job in the non-profit sector where she can use her Family Services degree and public service experience to make a positive impact in Memphis. …. Contact her at meganbanaszek0123@gmail.com or jobleads@volunteerodyssey.com.

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