On Saturday, May 4th, Free Arts celebrated the culmination of nine Professional Artist Series’ by gathering participants at a Free Arts Day event called Spring Blooms. Each of the nine series’ focused on a specific art form including painting, mixed media, guitar, and Chinese cultural arts and were led by Free Arts teaching artists. Over the previous five weeks these artists led small groups of children in one-hour sessions once a week, introducing children to the arts and preparing for this culminating event.
On this Saturday morning, over 100 children came together to share the skills they learned during the series. As children arrived at the event, they created name tags and decorating them with beads in symbolic colors that represented their stories. As a group of girls who had participated in a series making jewelry with teaching artist Shari Keith arrived, they saw photos of all their handcrafted jewelry hanging on the wall. They gushed to Shari about how cool it felt to see their work displayed in front of so many people. They then chose to spend most of their time that day admiring the photos and exchanging meaningful conversations related to their program. Throughout the morning, all the children took part in 30-minute rotations that consisted of viewing the visual arts exhibits and creating several international art activities including pellet drums, inspiration stones, and paper plate weavings.
Throughout the year, Free Arts coordinates more than 30 Free Arts Days. Free Arts Days are one-day events, two to four hours in length, that normally take place at Free Arts partner facilities or cultural partners in the Valley. The space for this particular event was graciously gifted to us by Neighborhood Ministries who allowed us use of their newly remodeled Youth Community Center. Each Free Arts Day focuses intently on creating a safe space for the attending children and then allowing them to take part in exploring new forms of self-expression. With the unique combination of a Free Arts Day and Professional Artist Series culminating event coming together, children were also offered the chance to witness the growth of their peers through the visual exhibits and performances presented.
As the activity rotations prepared to end and the performance portion of the day began, two little girls twirled around the open space, grinning and giggling. They shared with a Free Arts staff member that they were best friends and would soon take part in the guitar performance. They felt nervous but comforted that they were in it together and excited for this new opportunity. Shortly thereafter, all of the attendees gathered to watch the performances; photography and storytelling, guitar and vocals, spoken word poetry, and tai-chi. One of the children who took part in a spring Professional Artist Series noted, “This program made me put all of the negativity behind. I felt awesome and on top of the world before this exhibit because I felt like I can do or draw anything. Free Arts has helped me with turning my anger into joy.”