7th & 8th Grade Visit Artists First 01.26.20
What does making art have to do with “Making a Difference”? We tend to think of creativity, of artistry, as isolated and individual acts of talent. All too often, by the time we are adults we have convinced ourselves we either have it or we don’t. We can be so certain we lack talent that we become frightened to sketch, unwilling to express ourselves visually, and paralyzed by the thought. Of course, it is true that just the act of bringing beauty to the world, in music, painting or poetry, makes a difference.
We have begun a deeper exploration in studio in the weeks since winter break ended; community and collaborative art forms abound. Last week, the 7th and 8th grades saw first hand a nonprofit organization that seeks to heal the world and bridge perceived differences through studio art. Artists First is an inclusive, nonprofit art studio empowering artists of all abilities. Their literature explains that they “offer all individuals a platform to grow through creative self-expression socially, intellectually, and emotionally…emphasizing individual strengths to further personal and financial growth of disenfranchised individuals.” They offer supported open studio experiences and classes to youth, those with developmental disabilities, trauma survivors, veterans, and elders experiencing memory loss. It is an incredible program and I encourage you to learn more by visiting: www.artistsfirststl.org.
In preparation for our visit with the community and volunteer coordinator, students visited the Artists First website and watched their video. They then generated these discussion topics to reflect upon prior to our visit.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of working at Artists First?
Was this a career choice for you and how did it change your everyday life?
How do artists, staff, and volunteers find out about Artists First?
How many volunteers does it take to make the organization work?
Who doesn’t benefit from the experiences Artists First offers?
From what parts of St. Louis do the artists come and how do they get here?
After doing research, developing questions, and then a site visit with Artists First, we returned to school to process what we had learned. Each question had been thoroughly answered and some answers inspired more questions. The following summary of student reflections reveals much about making a difference, through art:
The studio is a community where relationships are being built between the artists, staff, volunteers and participants. There are social and creative interactions occurring all the time.
• There are careers and jobs that are based upon helping others. Sometimes assembling resources for others to benefit can make a huge difference in their life journeys and yours as well.
• Community art can draw people from all across the region and they will get there every way imaginable: bus, bike, ride share, walking.
• To make this kind of experience work for the artists, a large number of people need to be willing to give their time to support the studio. Artists First depends upon a full time staff of 4 and utilizes 140 volunteers each year.
• Healthy community relationships, cultivated by Artists First, are not about “sympathy” but about the belief that everyone has the possibility within them to create. When artists struggle or are disengaged, Artists First encourages them and over time these barriers seem to disappear.
We plan to consider ways to contribute to this and other small community-based arts organizations we visit. Check in for more news and discoveries as we make our way through an exploration of how making art can make a difference.