Article was written for miamiartzine.com
By Monica (Vega) Torres
“Over four million elementary children go without access to arts in American public schools,” explains Charity Von Guinness, Miami Director of ProjectArt. Imagine experiencing the first formative years of one’s life without any exposure to material that stimulates half of the mind–the right side, which is creative and emotional.
Experts say that schools are depriving too many children of essential mental activities that assist their intellectual growth. One organization is rising to challenge the crisis of creativity in public education and providing underprivileged children with a special gift, the experience of art. The non-profit organization ProjectArt pairs well-known local artists with underserved youth at local libraries. They are now in New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Miami, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Miami
On Thursday, May 31, 2018, ProjectArt will showcase its resident exhibition. Artists Alex Nunez, Anthony Anaya, Blair Butterfield, Maria Theresa Barbist, Morel Doucet, Stuart Sheldon, Rosa Naday Garmendia, and Rosemarie Romero participated in the second annual ProjectArt Miami. The artists will come together for the exhibition displaying artwork they created during their tenure as ProjectArt Resident Artists.
They resided at Hispanic Branch Library, North Central Library, Homestead Library, Culmer Overtown Library, Arcola Lakes Library, Edison Center Library, Little River Library, and Model City Library respectively. The event is free and open to the community, and starts at 7 p.m. at MOCA, North Miami, 770 N.E. 125th St., North Miami.
“Art is not a luxury but really necessary for children to thrive,” stated Von Guinness. miamiartzine.com interviewed the Miami director of the multi-city organization that is responding to a creativity crisis in the U.S.
What is the purpose of ProjectArt?
ProjectArt was founded in 2011 by Adarsh Alphons on the premise that inequity in arts and cultural engagement opportunities aggravate the vicious cycle of cultural and economic inequity in traditionally disenfranchised neighborhoods. Our driving force is addressing the creativity crisis in the United States: Over 4 million elementary children go without access to arts in American public schools. We respond by offering tuition-free, after-school art classes in local libraries.
We select our partner libraries by collecting and researching data on which neighborhoods would benefit the most from our program, targeting school districts that have had arts funding completely eradicated. For many of these students, our classes are the only exposure to the arts they have. Keeping that in mind, we hone our curriculum to encourage diverse instruction, allowing these resident artists to draw on their professional expertise and also incorporate the library’s rich educational resources. Students experiment with a variety of art materials in 2D, 3D and digital mediums and focus their art on their own experiences and perspectives allowing for a safe and creative outlet.
How many kids attend the program at each library?
Each of the eight libraries has three classes a week consisting of 15 students per class. We reach 45 students at each branch and total our impact in Miami to 360 students. The Miami Dade Public Library has been an incredibly meaningful partner and their support of our program cannot be overstated. It’s been a great experience to activate these spaces and work one on one with these invaluable community stalwarts.
How are they selected to attend?
Students are free to register for our tuition-free classes on our website anytime! Classes follow the school year so we start in September and end in June: https://projectart.org/enroll. We also try to maintain close ties to community partners. For example, we partner with the Miami Bridges Youth Shelter, offering them a dedicated class at the Model City Branch.
How are the artists selected and paired with the libraries?
ProjectArt looks for working artists who embody our mission, are passionate about bringing the arts to a younger generation, are motivated to serve communities, can guide students in developmentally appropriate discussions and critiques and really understand the value of self-reflective, autobiographical work in children’s lives. Our curriculum is paramount, so we work with the artists to develop a strong core of themes and objectives.
Our annual cohort of accomplished resident artists go through a juried “Request for Proposals” process and, as luck would have it, we are taking applications for next year until June 1. Visit: https://projectart.org/residency
During the application process, artists indicate which libraries they would most like to work in, and we try to pair them up with those choices in mind. Artists spend a lot of time in the libraries: getting to know the branch managers, communities and working on their projects within that space.
Our upcoming Exhibition is a culmination of the nine months of hard work our artists put in. They have been simply wonderful in classes and developing a meaningful curriculum and have done an incredible job at reflecting the children, communities, and libraries where they worked this past year, so we are excited to present this to the city.
What do you think kids gain from such exposure to art and what is the importance of such programs to the community at large?
There is some great research on the transformational effects of arts education exposure. According to Americans for the Arts, kids who have arts instruction have better attendance in school, raise their GPAs by almost three points and are three times as likely to receive a bachelor’s degree. Through our research and evaluation methods, we have found 81 percent of our students say their self-esteem has increased due to our classes and a whopping 91 percent say that art is an important part of their life. These are significant and powerful effects that demonstrate art is not just a luxury but really necessary for children to thrive.
We have found great effects in the community as well, with families using the library resources, children spending time in the library outside of class for other activities and feel we continue to meet our goal of activating libraries as safe, cultural hubs for the communities they serve.
ProjectArt Resident Artist Exhibition
May 31, 2018 – June 5, 2018
May 31, 2018
Light bites and refreshments.
Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (MOCA NoMi)
770 NE 125th Street North Miami, FL 33161