Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Daring to Dream

Alejandro (Ale) has always been a dreamer. Ale currently is a very active and enthusiastic member of the Teen Leaders in the Arts program at the Cook Arts Center. Since fifth grade Ale has been coming to the Cook Arts Center after school for classes. It has been at the Cook Arts Center that Ale has grown as an artist and a leader with dreams of making an impact on the larger community.  A long-term aspiration of his has been to attend Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD). As a high school senior, Ale was not sure what steps to take to make his dream come to fruition.

Cook Arts Center Program Director Steffanie Rosalez recognized that Alejandro has passion and focus for attending KCAD. Over the past few months Steffanie worked closely with Kendall faculty and staff to help them see his potential and overcome any barriers that happened to be in his way.

Ale was thrilled to learn that he could be dual enrolled and able to participate in the 100 level drawing course at KCAD during his senior year of high school, and he will be receiving college credits upon completion of the class.

On a snowy January day, Ale walked a little apprehensively from Innovation Central High School to KCAD where his dream became a reality. Ale explained that being a part of a college class “made him really nervous,” but he feels so much gratitude for this opportunity. He smiled and humbly noted  that “the professor even stopped to look at my work, and she told me that she can see why I am here. It made me feel so proud.”

The professors are also working with Ale to build a strong portfolio and to create pieces that may help him secure future scholarships. His goal is to enroll at Kendall College of Art and Design as a freshman next school year. We look forward to seeing Ale's future dreams come true.

Monday, November 9, 2015


Noemi Gonzalez, one of the Cook Arts Center’s Teen Leaders, will be awarded a special scholarship at the 2015 YWCA Tribute Awards Luncheon on November 17.  This year the Y’s selection committee was so overwhelmed with the number of high-quality nominees for the Judy Lloyd Student Leadership Award Scholarship that they created three additional scholarships in order to recognize a total of four high school students for their outstanding leadership qualities.

Noemi's leadership style at the Cook Arts Center has been crucial to building our teen program. Not only is she extremely mature, but she has the ability to think beyond herself and beyond the here and now. She's a "big picture" thinker and inspires our other teens to think critically about the big picture as well by asking relevant, thoughtful questions. Noemi’s consistent demeanor of calm and dedication helps keep the Teen Leaders’ conversations, meetings, and activities on track. If others lose focus, she gently reminds them to get back on task either verbally or by example. Noemi also leads by constantly asking questions and pursuing educational opportunities in every aspect of our programs. When she sees an opportunity to learn or to grow, she takes advantage of it. When she sees a chance to assist in making sure others have access to opportunities, she jumps on that with the same enthusiasm. 

Noemi is passionate about the need for equality in education. As a Mexican-American, she is well aware of the fifty percent high school graduation rate for Hispanics and “wishes that everyone would jump to action to make that statistic a thing of the past.” Noemi is interested in learning how government and policymaking work so that one day she can help bring about educational reform. In the meantime, she is in her senior year at Innovation Central High School (she has been on the honor roll all four years), is involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and is getting ready for college.

The future is bright for this exceptional young woman. Lead on, Noemi!

Thursday, October 1, 2015


Once again our students are making the most of ArtPrize, especially SiTE:LAB which is just a stone's throw from the Cook Arts Center. Here are some ArtPrize highlights:

- The Cook Arts Center’s list of class offerings this fall includes an ArtPrize Adventures family class. For the first three weeks of class students visited various ArtPrize venues, including SiTE:LAB. The next six weeks will feature hands-on arts activities that revolve around concepts and artwork seen and experienced during the field trips.

- In collaboration with the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, our Teen Leaders helped construct the “Port of Entry” installation on Calder Plaza.

- As part of ArtPrize's Education Days, 120 fourth and fifth graders from Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School toured SiTE:LAB, followed by a hands-on activity at the Cook Arts Center led by artist Eliza Fernand. Eliza began by explaining some of the terminology used during the tour (installation art, repurposing, found objects) and pointed out how many of the installations had to do with abandoned objects. She then had the students decorate shoes she had collected from In The Image--shoes without mates that were destined for the dumpster--and asked them to think about their shoes' stories while they worked. The activity ended with a brainstorming session about how this accumulation of 120 transformed shoes can be made into an installation. Stay tuned!

Fourth Graders Contemplate SiTE:LAB's "State of Exception"
Painting Shoes at the Cook Arts Center
"Port of Entry" Under Construction

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Winning Combination

Did you know that SiTE:LAB is taking up residence in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood? The Rumsey Street Project is located just behind the Cook Arts Center, and we look forward to planning some exciting SiTE:LAB projects for our students over the next two years.

SiTE:LAB and Tommy Fitzgerald have teamed up to offer a unique opportunity during ArtPrize that is guaranteed to nourish body and soul and support GAAH’s programs at the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.

On September 27, the first Sunday of ArtPrize, Tom Clinton and Paul Amenta will conduct a private tour of SiTE:LAB’s Rumsey Street Project at 11:00 a.m., followed by a delectable lunch at the Cook Arts Center served up by chef extraordinaire Tommy Fitzgerald. Tom, Paul, and several SiTE:LAB artists will be attending the lunch.

The mouth-watering menu includes:
- Classic Caesar Salad
- Strawberry Salad That Tastes Like Strawberries!
- Ensalada Antonini (Parmesan, Pecan, Prosciutto, Arugula, White Truffle Oil)
- Four-Cheese Ravioli Pasta Salad Dragged Through The Garden
- Basil & Lemon Zest Chicken
- Berries, Chocolate & Ladyfingers
- Van’s Sourdough
- Beer, Wine & Sparkling Water

A donation of $100 or more reserves you a spot on the tour and a seat at the table. Of this amount, $75 is tax-deductible.

Only 20 seats are available, so make your reservations today!

E-mail for more information.  


When many children hear the last bell signaling that school is out for the summer, they hit the pool--not the books. Our Cook Library Scholars, however, are an entirely different caliber of student. They flocked to the Cook Library Center in July to continue their education as part of a group effort to diminish the summer learning gap. Led by Sue Garza and Monica Zavala, the CLS Summer Program provided many opportunities for students to grow, achieve, lead, and have an overall healthy dose of fun.

The CLS Summer Program faced a new challenge this year: the span of grade levels was the largest ever. The program boasted over thirty students, ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. The challenge of providing programming to each grade level was met by taking advantage of the age gap and using it to encourage every student to learn at his or her own pace, while encouraging individualized life lessons, or “takeaways,” at the end of each day.

Applying life lessons to academics was the keystone of this year’s program, as the theme was adapted from the popular learning acronym S.T.E.M. Thinking the Cook Library Scholars way (which is thinking broadly and outside the box), the term morphed into S.T.E.A.M.M. which stood for science, technology, engineering, art, math, and music.

Each week was jam-packed with Sue and Monica’s specially created S.T.E.A.M.M. programming that promised new academic adventures and activities. While this type of fast-paced, ever-changing learning environment may be daunting to some students, the Scholars fervently dove into the daily activities. Every staff member, intern, and volunteer on hand constantly moved around the library instructing, praising, and validating the Scholars.

Meanwhile, the Scholars dug into learning as they built, dissected, analyzed, wrote, critiqued, created, and thrived—and did they thrive! With hands-on activities meant to boost motor, social, and critical thinking skills, each Scholar was able to engage in his or her own learning in a collaborative and individualized setting. Every minute was filled with opportunity. Even when the Scholars sat down for lunch, they were actively engaged with a member of the staff to discuss such topics as the expanding job market, the work ethic needed to succeed in a career, and the necessity of earning a bachelor’s degree in today’s economy.

When asked about the daily lunch lessons, one motivated Scholar summed up her takeaway this way: “I had never considered college to be an option open to me before, let alone having a job involving forensic science. Now that idea really interests me.” Through the CLS Summer Program, this same Scholar had the opportunity to travel to a chemistry lab at Grand Rapids Community College where she conducted an experiment with the Dean of Students.

GRCC was not the only community outreach effort this summer. Connections were made with The Rapid bus system during the Tobacco Free project; the YMCA visited the library to teach health, wellness, and physical fitness classes; a trip was made to GVSU’s Honors College campus to speak with the director of the program; and guest readers from the Grandville Avenue neighborhood came to lend their stories as the Scholars lent their ears.

In the CLS Summer Program, life and learning went hand in hand. With the combined effort of Scholars and staff alike, gardens were planted, stories were written, crafts were made, jobs were embraced, life lessons were learned, and connections between education and the real world were formed. The Cook Library Scholars are ready to tackle the next school year as they tackled each assignment and project during the summer program—with heads held high in true Scholar form and practice.

This month's guest blogger is Paige Dhyne who is the Cook Library Center's Summer Writing Intern. She is a senior Writing and Film/Video major at GVSU who plans to attend graduate school for a Masters in Library Science.

The middle school Scholars toured a blueberry farm to see how food-to-table farming works. Itzel, Angel, and Emmanuel are pictured here tasting fresh blueberries.

Jazmin and Miriam work together to measure out precise lengths of PVC pipe to make flutes.

Miriam and Jazmin share a laugh after playing the first notes of their PVC flutes.