Friday, December 14, 2012

Cook Arts Center Class Highlighting – Movie Making

Movie Making at the Cook Arts Center is just one of many fun and exciting classes offered for fall program 2012.  Students are able to create a short film, scripted and designed by them, from their own interests and ideas.  The class is taught by a Grand Valley State alumnus who has experience in film production and design.  Mr. Flanders is a fun loving individual who works really well with kids and does a fantastic job including everyone in everything from scripting and design to editing.  He makes sure everyone has a part in the movie and he asks them for their valued input in all aspects of class. Nothing goes into these films that the children don’t approve of.  Because the class only meets once a week, the students are always looking forward to next week’s adventure!     

I spoke with some of the children and asked them about the Cook Arts Center and the Movie Making class, specifically.  Zacharius N. expressed his enthusiasm for the class by telling me that Movie Making was his "favorite class ever”, and it was obvious that the other students agreed with him.  The class is all about the students having fun and you can see it on their faces; they are all smiles all the time.  Movie Making is just one of many great classes offered by the Cook Arts Center that kids enjoy and look forward to.  Their classes foster a safe and educational environment for children to laugh, learn, and grow.  As Giselle, Shirley and Ailyn, put it, “We’ve been coming here for 7 to 8 years and absolutely love it.”  With a statement like that, I think that the Cook Arts Center is doing a pretty great job!   

This blog post was written by a Justin Kamp, a Calvin College student who volunteered his time and efforts to promote our program activities here at the Cook Arts Center.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Calvin's Dance Guild Stuns our Students! 

This past Thursday, we were able to take 16 of our students from the Cook Arts Center to Calvin College to see their semi-annual Dance Guild presentation.  What a treat!  Such an incredible opportunity would not have been possible without the generosity of one of our very special volunteers, Noelle B.  A student herself at Calvin College, she worked with the institution so that our students could come and see the dress rehearsal for free.  A very special thanks to Noelle for thinking of us and our students.

As for what our students thought of the presentation, they loved it! Calvin students performed a variety of dances that ranged from hip-hop to interpretive.  It was so great to see our students responding with applause, cheering, and the collective "yeah!" when the break dancers did a front flip or when the ballerinas spun on their toes.  But most importantly, it was a time for our students to be encouraged to pursue their own artistic interests and talents--dance related or otherwise.  

Ly'nasia G. and Heaven posin' for the camera before the performance! 

Cook Arts Center students together with a Calvin performer! 
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Dia de los Muertos at GAAH!

In various parts of North and Central America, November 1st and 2nd are extremely significant dates that announce the arrival of “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.”  Dia de los Muertos is a celebration that seeks to honor loved ones who have passed on, as well as to celebrate the gift of living.  A common tradition during the Dia de los Muertos festivities involves constructing an altar where symbolic items such as candles, candy skulls and cherished belongings of the deceased are placed so that the spirit of the deceased may return home.  This year, we constructed our own altar and dedicated it to our dear friend, Andy Angelo, whose exemplary dedication to GAAH was truly invaluable.

The construction of our altar would not have been possible without the incredible help of one of our community volunteers, Monica Z.  Her creative talents and memories from when she herself was celebrating Dia de los Muertos as a child in Guanajuato, Mexico, enabled us to turn out an especially beautiful altar this year!  Thank you again, Monica!

If you have any spare moments this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the Grand Rapid’s Public Library main branch downtown during the hours of 9-6. Saturday and 1-4. Sunday to check out the impressive display of community altars—ours included! 

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Capturing the Hearts of the Community: Calvin College Volunteers

Calvin College has played an extremely important role in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood since the inception of the Cook Library Center in 1996.  Freshman students who live in the dorms are required to volunteer their time throughout the school year and are sent to a number of participating non-profit organizations within the city of Grand Rapids.  Fortunately for us, we have a partnership with Calvin that requires freshman students from Boer-Bennink dorm to complete their volunteer hours at the Cook Library Center.  This year, approximately 20 Calvin volunteers are at the library every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to spend time with our area students.  A typical day at the library for them may include helping students with homework, playing educational and interactive games, or reading books with them.  We couldn't love our Calvin volunteers more if we wanted to!

It's easy to see that our area students are just as enamored with Calvin's volunteers as we are.  At any given moment when Calvin volunteers are at the library, smiles radiate from students' faces as they contemplate their next chess move, select their favorite book from the shelves, or simply sit beside a volunteer and chat.  And oh, do Calvin volunteers adore our students!  When asked what Calvin students enjoy about the Cook Library Center, their collective response was that they feel loved; that our students remember them by name and greet them excitedly when they come through the doors each week.  How wonderful is that?    

For many of our students, Calvin volunteers are people that can be trusted to share feelings, hopes, fears and dreams with.  They are role models who can be counted on to give encouragement and positive attention.  We are extremely fortunate to have such individuals from Calvin investing in our students.  Our students love them, we love them, and we look forward to working with them as they continue to shape this community with their compassionate hearts and dedication!  
Maynor goofin' around with a  Calvin volunteer
Calvin volunteers Julie and Rudi  hangin' out with two of our students!
From left to right: Esai, Julie, Troy and Rudi
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Fun has Begun! 

It's that time again!  Just as the new school year has started up, so has our fall programming here at the Cook Arts Center!  We are extremely excited to be getting back into the rhythm of classes after taking a short rest following our Creative You! summer program.  Our students seem to be just as excited as we are about being back to class, and have since signed up for a fresh selection of classes that include After School Pottery, Beginner's Violin, Movie Making, Animal Art and Roller Coaster Design.  If you're thinking "Roller Coaster Design? That's awesome!" we couldn't agree more.  That class, along with others such as Community Tango, Music Madness! and Photography, are fantastic additions to our class roster that offer new enrichment opportunities for our neighborhood adults and children.   

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about our programs, class offerings, or how you might like to become involved as a volunteer, please visit our website at to learn more.  
Also, don't forget that those who live in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood (a.k.a Roosevelt Park neighborhood) can take any of our classes for FREE!  

Classes for our fall session are currently full, but please continue to check our website, facebook and twitter pages for updates on when winter 2013 registration will be open.  In the meantime, stay posted for more exciting updates and pictures of our fall session and what neat discoveries our students continue to make!      

Ms. T and her students showing off their beautiful bugs in Animal Art class!

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

Bon Appetit!

This past Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, our Press Club students received some extra-curricular lessons in the culinary arts—from the inside of a truck.  That’s right!  The Winchester, located at 648 Wealthy Street SE, sent over their comically named food truck “What the Truck” along with some of their chefs to give our Press Club students a meaningful food experience.  Students were divided into small groups and given one full hour of hands-on instruction that involved everything from tenderizing pasta noodles to garnishing rice combos with fresh chesses and herbs.  Yum!  Needless to say, as soon as our lunch hour hit, we were all anxious and excited to see what our Press Club students were going to prepare for us.

Our lunch was indeed delicious!  During their first session, Press Club students prepared a fresh summer salad consisting of lettuce and cherry tomatoes topped off with touches of balsamic vinegar.  Next, servings of linguini pasta that were coated with alfredo sauce and sprinkled with bread crumbs had summer program students raving with approval.  Dessert was a small bowl of red grapes, which was a perfectly health conscious and refreshing end to an all-around fabulous meal.  Both “What the Truck” and its food were huge hits with our staff and our summer program students. 

But what did Press Club students glean from their experience in the truck’s mobile kitchen?  Antonio J. shared that he liked being introduced to new and different kinds of food.  “I never even heard of linguini before,” he said with excitement.  “I thought it was gum!”  His peers and instructors were equally impressed by the food that the kids helped prepare.  When given the chance, everyone would want seconds after!  “Everybody wanted, like, five of them!” said Edgar J., referring to the delicious fajitas that he helped prepare on the second day.  He too was impressed with how the tastes, spices and new ways of preparing food differed from how he originally envisioned them being.  So what was the overall consensus of such a special visit our friends at The Winchester?  We think that Edgar J. had it right when he said “They make everything good!” :)   

An enormous, fun-filled thanks to The Winchester and "What the Truck" for their time, energy, and an overall delicious encounter with our summer program students and staff!        
Press Club siblings Juan and Ana T. sampling some pasta on their day off from cooking!   

Antonio J. and Ignacio L. having a blast as they serve their peers some lunch! 

Indira M. and Donny H. sharing a laugh as they prepare a fruity dessert in the back station of "What the Truck."
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.   

Friday, August 3, 2012

GAAH Family Spotlight

Many families pass through our doors on a daily basis, and many of the children have been coming here since they were toddlers. This week, we celebrate a very special family by putting them in our GAAH Family "Spotlight." As part of our Spotlight, we celebrate area families who dedicate their time, energy and endless support to their children's education and involvement in the arts. This month we are celebrating the Hernandez family!

S., the mother of three children who participate in our after-school and summer programs, has been involved in GAAH since 2004. She first became involved with the Cook Arts Center through a Head Start program that was housed here. She brought her toddler and later involved her second child before the program was moved to another location. Both children have been our involved in arts programs at the Arts Center ever since. That makes for a solid 11 years that S. and her family have been involved in GAAH programming. Wow!

For S. and her family, the Cook Arts Center is something very personal. She is extremely grateful to the organization's founders, donors and staff for the opportunity to involve her children in activities she considers to be "very important for their future." "I am very happy," she said. "This is the best home that my children could be in aside from their own...they're benefiting from so many good things." S. appreciates the unity among the students regardless of age, race or economic status. "Older students include and protect the younger ones while cross-racial relationships are continually established, and one can see the harmony in this place," she said.

Thank you, Hernandez family, for being such a wonderful part of our organization! We hope that you will continue to be involved for many more years to come! :)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kids Explore Grand Rapids Public Library and Learn about their Neighborhood

This past Friday proved to be another excellent excursion for our kids!  Both the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center visited the Grand Rapids Public Library’s main branch where they had the chance to read and use the computers, eat a fabulous picnic lunch in Veteran’s Memorial Park and even receive a tour of the Grand Rapids archives.  Tim Gleisner, Grand Rapids Public Library Archivist/Historian, gave them a fascinating tour of some of the historic parts of the library; maps, old photos and even an old fashioned film helped educate everyone on how completely different the Grandville Avenue neighborhood looked during the early 1900s! Wow!

After the tour, Mr. Tim helped students look up their homes in the "house archives" which hold old photographs and history on most of the houses that are built in Grand Rapids.  They saw maps, photos, old letters - they even got to go inside the special cooler area where very old documents are kept from disintegrating.  All in all, a great day and an awesome opportunity for our kids to see how their neighborhood has grown, changed and diversified over the decades!

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.                      

Friday, July 13, 2012

Farewell, Dear Ashley!

As many of you know from first-hand experience, any non-profit organization’s mission is made possible by the hard work of its staff and volunteers—especially its volunteers. Just think back to all of the last-minute decorations that needed hanging before an event, or the seemingly endless amount of pencils that needed sharpening before programming. Without the help of those individuals who ensured that all of those last-minute details were taken care of, I know that we especially would be driven insane with work overload! For that reason we would like to extend a very bitter-sweet thank you and farewell to a volunteer that has left a tremendous impact on us, our kids and the Grandville Avenue neighborhood.

Ashely Curry is an undergraduate student at the University of Notre Dame who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in English. After seeing her interact so wonderfully with the kids both at the Cook Arts Center and at the Cook Library Center, it was no surprise when she told us that her dream was to teach English courses to high school students. But what’s even more fitting than her natural ability with kids is her passion to serve the community that she’s a part of. Ashley was with us at both GAAH locations this summer interning through one of Notre Dame’s programs called the Summer Service Learning Project (SSIP). Through this program’s commitment to community engagement and social conscience, Ashely was able to actively serve the community in a city of her choice. We couldn’t be happier that she chose Grand Rapids, MI!

Ashley’s roles at both GAAH sites were as innumerable as they were invaluable to both GAAH and the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. She especially enjoyed reading and playing games with the kids at the CLC after their summer program started up. As she playfully put it - “I was like an overgrown child reading and playing with them.” So many of our kids need someone like Ashley to play with them, listen to them and learn with them; to make their childhood memorable and to make sure that they stay children for as long as possible.

We thank you, Ashley, for your incredible service to GAAH this summer and wish you the very best on your journey! Grandville Avenue will miss you!

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center.

Summer Program 2012 Kick-Off!

Our summer programs are off to a GREAT start!  Both programs will be focusing on a variety areas from reading, writing, gardening, art, music to theater.  Our goal is for our kids to improve their reading and writing skills while exploring and developing other interests in the arts and humanities.  Through an assortment of fun and educational Friday fieldtrips, we also hope to expose kids to such Grand Rapids treasures as the Grand Rapids Public Library, the Children’s Museum and more!

While the mission of both the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center may be the same, the programs at each location are a little bit different.  At the Cook Library Center for example, the principal academic focus is reading.  Kids enrolled there come in every afternoon Monday-Thursday and read for one hour before they engage in math, history or English literacy activities together.  Can you believe that their goal for each child is to have them read 100 books by the end of the summer!? Wow!

The Cook Arts Center, on the other hand, focuses heavily on strengthening kids’ writing skills.  Each day the “Word of the Day” activity requires students to use two pre-selected words in a complete sentence that they record in their mini-journals.  Likewise, students are also asked to write in a separate journal about the chapters that they are required to read from books that they themselves select.  This second journal is especially unique because it will be “followed” by an assigned reading buddy (Youth Assistants) who will spend time with each student encouraging them as they progress in their reading and writing.

We’re excited for our kids and are looking forward to 5 more weeks of fun and learning! :)

Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities administers the programs of the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center.    

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cook Arts Center Students Participate in SiTE:LAB

This weekend Blandford Nature Center is hosting its second year of SiTE:LAB, a roving project that creates temporary site-specific art projects aimed at facilitating dynamic collaborations between the art, education, business and cultural communities of Grand Rapids. This SiTE:LAB is a very special one though, because for the first time some of it's featured artists are as young as six years old.

Those six year olds are part of a group of 15 students from the Cook Arts Center who, over the past ten weeks, worked on creating and installing a site-specific installation for this weekend's SiTE:LAB event at Blandford. For more information on the project, check out the article in The Rapidian or head over to Blandford Nature Center this weekend to see it for yourself tonight from 5-11pm or tomorrow, June 16th, from 12-5pm.

Cook Arts Center staff and students stop working for a moment to get their picture taken. From left to right: Artist T'Alyne, Program Director Steffanie Rosalez, Students Nancy A., Donny H., Avelycia O., Intern Ashley Currey, and Student (in front) Shirley H.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Edwin Campos

If you guide children in the right way, they’ll know what’s right. If you don’t give up on them, they can learn from their mistakes. --Edwin Campos--

Edwin Campos is in his fourth year as program assistant at the Cook Library Center. His brother, Javier, is involved with the Cook Arts Center, and together they have become an integral part of the GAAH family. [See next week's blog for information about Javier Campos.]

Growing up in the neighborhood surrounding the Cook Library Center and Cook Arts Center, Edwin has seen the challenges that the area has had to endure. Thankfully, through the work of many organizations, the neighborhood is undergoing major changes for the better. There are new buildings, walls free of graffiti, community gardens, and plenty of after-school activities for children of all ages.

That is why he enjoys his work at Cook Library Center so much. The Library offers a safe place for children and youth to read books, get help with their homework, or just have a good time. Adults aren’t left out either; they can receive Edwin’s help in Spanish and in English with business letters, resumes, and computer classes.

Edwin strives to be a role model for the children who visit the Cook Library Center. He wants them to see him and say, “He graduated from college, so I can do the same.” Edwin challenges students at the Cook Library Center to “step up and be respectful, because they will be the next role models for the neighborhood’s youngsters.”

It is a challenge to make drastic changes and improvements in the neighborhood. Encouraging youth to step up and set the example is all part of the transformation to which Edwin is committed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rhyme Rumble

The Cook Arts Center was ready to rumble last Friday at the Wealthy Theatre. We were pitted against eleven other nonprofits in the Rhyme Rumble, a karaoke competition at the Wealthy Theatre sponsored by the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Program director Steffanie Rosalez wrote and performed a mission-related rap to the music of Party Rock Anthem, and our breakdance and salsa dance students twirled, spun, and boogied like there was no tomorrow.

Judge’s Choice and People’s Choice trophies were awarded, and the Cook Arts Center walked away with both of them! Hooray!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Día del Sol

Here’s a sneak preview of one of the quilts that will be available for purchase at Día del Sol on June 21. These young quilters have been involved in every aspect of its design and production, and they’ve been having a blast!

Día del Sol takes place on June 21 from 5:00-7:30 p.m. at the Cook Arts Center. It will feature great food catered by Tommy Fitzgerald, the music of Villalobos, dance performances by Grupo Tarasco and MI Peru, and eclectic silent auction items. Tickets are a bargain at only $25. Call the GAAH office at 742-0692 or e-mail for more information.