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 mkuipers@gaah.org 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.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Beautiful Legacy

If you ask the students at the Cook Art Center what's their favorite class, many will say pottery. One reason behind that answer is because of the inspiration they receive from pottery studio manager and instructor Madeline Kaczmarczyk. 

After nine-plus years of running the Wege Foundation Pottery Studio, Madeline will soon be retiring. Over the years she has contributed in numerous ways to the Cook Arts Center, to her students, and to the Grandville neighborhood. As an instructor, Ms. Madeline, as her pupils refer to her, gives pottery students confidence, knowledge, and pride in their community. “She makes me feel good, like I can do anything, and she never lets me give up,” said Esmeralda, a student from the open pottery studio.

With infinite patience and gentle guidance, Madeline teaches children, teens, and adults alike the art of pottery. She has a way of making students feel stronger, not just in their clay abilities but in who they are. Madeline makes everyone feel comfortable and welcome and has a genuine interest in their lives.
“I have seen students thrive and learn how to freely express themselves,” said Steffanie Rosalez, Program Director of the Cook Art Center. “I have witnessed them grow not only as artists but as people with Madeline as an instructor and a mentor."

Every year for Día del Sol Madeline, with the help of her students, creates masterpieces for the silent auction. The pieces have attracted many people and donations to GAAH. The vases or bowls she makes with the students are works of art you are unlikely to find anywhere else, for they have the details of a master potter and the whimsy of a child’s hand.

Several years ago Madeline approached Executive Director Marjorie Kuipers with the idea of creating a mosaic mural at the Cook Arts Center. “As a child my father would take me to the Detroit Public Library, and I was fascinated by the ceramic tile piece that was created by Mary Stratton of Pewabic Pottery,” explained Madeline. “I wanted children in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood to find inspiration just like I did.”

A Reflection Of Us is now a permanent fixture in the lobby of the Cook Arts Center. This beautiful mosaic mural expresses the diversity of the art, the people, and the culture of the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.  “I cannot think of a more fitting legacy for Madeline,” said Kuipers. “This exquisite work of art is a tribute to her unparalleled skill as an artist and a teacher, and it will inspire children, teens, and adults for years to come.”

Madeline is an adjunct Assistant Professor of Art at Aquinas College, a position she's held for the last sixteen years. She has created pottery for over 40 years, has won numerous awards, and was even on the cover of Pottery Magazine. She is married to fellow potter Jerry Berta, has two children, and is a proud grandmother. Their children, Amy and Zach, spent a great deal of time in their parents’ clay studio. Both went on to become scientists, and Madeline credits early exposure to the arts with their ability to be creative problem-solvers in their careers.

The primary reason Madeline will be leaving the Cook Art Center is to concentrate on her own work. She often has pottery at Festival of the Arts, ArtPrize, and several summer art shows all over the state. In the meantime, Madeline is preparing her students for the transition. “I’ll miss Ms. Madeline and I’m sad she’s leaving,” said Crystal, “but I am looking forward to getting to know our new teacher.” We have Madeline to thank for instilling in her students a positive attitude about this big change at the Cook Arts Center.

                                  Family Pottery Class

Monday, May 4, 2015

GAAH's Dynamic Duo

Sue Garza, Director of the Cook Library Center, was recently honored by Family Futures with the Christine Nelson Professional Award for her tireless work on behalf of children and families in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.

Sue was nominated for this award by another tireless neighborhood advocate—Steffanie Rosalez, the Cook Arts Center’s Program Director. Steffanie’s nomination letter is a beautiful summary of Sue’s essential work in the community as well as a testament to their mutual respect and strong partnership. Here is that letter:

I am writing this letter to nominate my colleague, Sue Garza, for the Christine Nelson Professional Award. Through her work as Director of the Cook Library Center, Sue has been instrumental in providing a safe and welcoming space for youth and families in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood for almost ten years. Even more importantly, Sue has a passion for empowering and serving others, and that passion pushes her to go above and beyond just being an advocate for youth in her profession – she is a genuine force for equality and education in her everyday life. 

Sue’s daily professional activities include an incredibly wide range of programs and services that allow children and families to have access to opportunities and education. She implements and directs the typical library services that you’d expect, but not in a way that a normal “librarian” would. When children and families come in and need access to resources, Sue will provide the typical services one might need (books, computers, help finding information), but then on top of that she allows families to utilize her as a resource. She is always willing to sit side by side with individuals to help them apply for jobs, learn to read, get their homework done, and in any way she possibly can help them reach their full potential.

Sue also oversees all of the Cook Library Center’s programs, including Cook Library Scholars, Cook Library Achievers, English as a Second Language (ESL) and literacy classes, Juego en Español (a program for families with young toddlers to speak in English and Spanish together), drop-in homework help, and more. Sue is at the helm, leading all of these programs that are designed to support youth and their families in a holistic and genuine way. Sue is the perfect leader for these programs, as she genuinely believes in the potential of every student and family and goes above and beyond her call of duty to support them in their needs.

As if that wasn’t enough, in her spare time Sue continues following her passion by volunteering for the Literacy Center of West Michigan and SLD Read tutoring adults and youth. She also serves on Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Parent University committee (a group that works to provide parents of GRPS students with tools and education to help their kids succeed in school), and she is a Parent Action Leader (PAL) at her sons’ school. One moment I experienced that was a true testament to Sue’s grassroots presence in the community was when, upon entering the room for a meeting, a man recognized Sue and said, “Oh! Hi Sue! I didn’t realize we were meeting with the Sue, who volunteered every morning at my son’s school giving rides to students in bad weather and making sure they got to school safely. It’s good to see you again!”

Thank you so much for considering Sue as a recipient for this award. I cannot imagine anyone who deserves it more than she does!

Steffanie Rosalez

        Sue Garza (right) and Steffanie Rosalez do great work on Grandville Avenue

Friday, March 20, 2015

Welcome to Jeffrey VanHove, the Cook Arts Center's newest volunteer

“Those kids kind of fill my heart. I just like spending time with them. I like listening to all of their funny little comments and questions. It makes me smile.”

This was the explanation that Jeffrey VanHove, a new volunteer at the Cook Arts Center, gave when he was asked why he chose to give his time to GAAH. His volunteer work in the animal drawing class does not fill any credit requirement. Instead, he is choosing to spend his afternoons and evenings with the youth in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood because of his passion for helping kids.

“I chose animal drawing specifically because it included ages 5-9 and I wanted to work with kids in the fourth grade age range,” he explained. “For my first experience, I was a little nervous. I always am when I walk into a class of kids I've never met before. I just wonder if they are going to like me. Even though I immerse myself in things, I am a little shy,” Jeffrey said. “But I definitely think I made an impression. When I walked in, I was wearing this big safari-looking hat, and the kids started calling me a cowboy. So I made a little cowboy move and they all laughed. That was my first connection.”

Jeffrey then started making friends with individual students in the class. “I started asking them some questions, talking to them about their classes. The girl across from me told me about piano classes which I thought was really cool because I've always wanted to learn piano. When I got up to go meet the other kids, they were like, ‘No, don’t go!’”

To assist the art instructor, Jeffrey helped the students trace rabbits and draw animals. “Two other volunteers were helping out, but I noticed that they were walking around asking kids if they needed help drawing. I wanted to actually draw myself, so I drew this ridiculous camel,” Jeffrey explained. “[The students] had a lot of energy so I was trying to play games with them to get them engaged. I even started a horse-drawing competition.”

Jeffrey, a freshman at Grand Valley State University, comes from Boyne City. Growing up, he attended East Jordan Schools, Bell Air Schools, and then graduated from Boyne City High School. His interests include longboarding, skiing, and working with kids. He has also volunteered to help with the Warrior Dash and the Forest of Fear at GVSU and plans to do more volunteer work, including at the Cook Library Center.

“I found out that I loved kids when I started working as a teacher's assistant my senior year of high school. I helped out two fourth grade teachers with math, science, and PowerPoints and had a great time. I never knew how much I would miss it until it was gone,” he said. “One of the really cool things about being a teacher’s assistant and helping kids with academics and schoolwork is that you are helping them become more successful.”

He discovered the Cook Arts Center through a friend who volunteers in a pottery class. Once she explained the organization to him, Jeffrey thought it sounded like a perfect way to be involved with the community and work with kids. “The classes just looked awesome,” Jeffrey said. ”I was really excited about breakdance and guitar so I really wanted to get involved.”

Jeffrey summed up his experience this way: “I had an awesome time at the Cook Arts Center. The classroom was great, everyone was really nice, and I left with a really good impression. I walked out of the building with a smile on my face.”