Thursday, October 30, 2014

Expanding Horizons

This fall our students and their families expanded their artistic and cultural horizons with field trips to several venerable downtown institutions.

The Andy Angelo Press Club visited ArtPrize the weekend it opened where they had a unique opportunity to talk to several artists about their motivation to enter the competition. Some of the students were surprised at what they learned, including the fact that one artist only enters to attract the attention of “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” museums. The students then wrote about their experiences which were published on The Rapidian.

The next weekend 25 more students and their families were treated to private tours of two ArtPrize venues: SiTE:LAB and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. At the GRAM the group had the privilege of meeting several artists, including grand prize winner Anila Quayyum Agha. They also were able to get an inside look at one of the pieces to which they could easily relate titled “I Am Not Who You Think I Am/Yo No Soy Quien Crees Que Soy” by Salvador Jimenez Flores. Salvador spoke about the meaning of his piece in addition to translating for Ron Platt, GRAM’s chief curator, while he led the museum tour. A parent was overheard to say, “I didn’t realize I liked art so much!” When it was finally time to go home a student exclaimed, “I want to stay downtown and look at art all night!”

A post-ArtPrize field trip consisted of a visit to Kendall College of Arts and Design. On the way there, Steffanie Rosalez, the Cook Arts Center’s program director, was surprised to learn that nobody on the bus had ever been to KCAD. After taking a few minutes to describe the college and its important role in the community, she told the students what they could expect during the artist reception and campus tour. Moments later, 60 students filed out of the bus and began exploring the galleries and studios of KCAD's campus for the very first time.

Times like these remind the staff at GAAH of the importance of providing opportunities for our youth and their families. Even though most of our students live near downtown, they seldom have a chance to explore these institutions, learn about careers in a hands-on way, and meet artists, professors, and others who may be able to connect them with life-changing opportunities. GAAH serves as an important liaison between the Grandville Avenue neighborhood and the broader community by providing many residents with a unique opportunity to experience art in a city that is so deeply enhanced by it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Library Scholars Help With Latino Archive

Carlos Fuentes said, “The United States has written the white history of the United States. It now needs to write the Black, Latino, Indian, Asian and Caribbean history of the United States.”

On September 18 the community celebrated one of Grand Rapids’ first Latino-focused archive titled “Portrait of My Community.” Joined by esteemed guests Mayor George Heartwell, Dr. Paul Kutsche, GVSU’s Dean Anne Hiskes, and historians Tim Gleisner and Gordon Olson, GAAH’s Cook Library Scholars unveiled a series of historical accounts about Grandville Avenue. They were collected by students who are growing up there in partnership with Grand Valley State University’s Kutsche Office of Local History.

The documents include interviews, photos, and videos of conversations between the Scholars and local business owners, inspirational leaders, and other key figures in the community. The students asked such questions “What inspired you?” and “What advice do you have for me?” These interviews were carefully documented, ensuring that this significant history remains accessible for everyone in the community.

The celebration itself, which took place at the Cook Library Center, included an address by Mayor Heartwell as well as inspiring presentations from students Alejandro, Itza, and Angel. After the program, the crowd of family, friends, and community members viewed the display and enjoyed some Hispanic food.

All in all, this poignant project elevates the important voices and history of the people in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood. Not only did the process teach important historical lessons to the youth who worked on it, but its completion will serve as an educational tool to communicate significant historical information in which the entire city can take pride. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Audubon Arts Becomes a Program of GAAH

This September our fall programs kicked into gear, and we are delighted to share the enthusiasm of our students. In addition to continuing our existing programs, we have added a few fresh ones like Pom Dance and a Family Portrait Drawing class, opening the door to new possibilities for neighborhood families.

Audubon Arts is also new this year. This unique collaboration with Junior Audubon Grand Rapids teaches neighborhood youth the art of birds and nature. Thanks to GAAH’s Volunteer Coordinator and Administrative Assistant Bethany Sheffer, this program is available to members of the Audubon Club as well as neighborhood children. The hour-long class that meets once a week introduces youth to a variety of environmental topics through drawing, painting, and mixed media which allow the youth to study nature while tapping into their creativity. Along with artists and conservationists, students go on field trips to local nature centers and parks, introducing them to larger community-based projects such as Celebrate Urban Birds, International Migratory Bird Day, and the Junior Duck Stamp Program.

Studies show that race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status play a substantial role in how often youth spend time in and are exposed to nature. The Audubon Arts program builds the capacity for youth from our neighborhood and beyond to have greater access to green space, nature trails, and educational programming at nature centers. It is our hope that this will allow our students to find meaningful connections to the environment, leading to a greater likelihood that they will defend and care for it in the future.