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|December 11-17, 2008
Artists at play
Local organizations reach out to at-risk kids
by Barbara Byrnes-Lenarcic
Areli Gutierrez, 10, portrays her mother, father, three siblings and herself on a light-green background accented by blue stars and green, white and violet flowers.
“I had snowflakes at first. Then I turned them into stars, because I thought they looked better. Because when December ends and the snowflakes are gone, I will still have the stars all the time,” Areli said.
Cynthia Puentes’ family portrait features yellow and white flowers floating across light-green paint. Her mom, who is the largest figure in the portrait, wears a white T-shirt. Cynthia, who wears a pink skirt, and her brother, who is dressed in red, stand next to their mom. The figures smile and wave.
“We are saying ‘hi’ to the people seeing the picture,” said Cynthia, 11. “I put flowers in the background to make the picture look better. The flowers add details. We have flowers in our house. Roses.”
Victor Arellano, 10, shows his family of five under snow-capped mountains. A yellow star on the middle mountain may remind viewers of the lit star on Flagstaff Mountain.
Emily Valenzuela’s portrait features a family of four in colorful clothes and an orange puppy.
“I wanted to show the puppy to the people,” said 8-year-old Emily.
These family portraits on view at the Trident Booksellers and Café bring at-risk children into the Boulder mainstream community through their art.
Started last summer, Art Stop on the Go, a Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art outreach program in partnership with The Family Learning Center (FLC) and the I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County, is designed to engage students in art-making activities that inspire exploration and self-discovery. The Boulder Arts Commission and US Bank currently fund the project.
Art Stop on the Go’s first exhibit features 26 paintings that include eight works by FLC students and 18 creations by students in I Have a Dream Foundation’s Iris class in North Boulder.
On Dec. 2, Cynthia, Areli, Victor, Emily and Eric Esparza, FLC students, attend the opening of their show at the Trident with Eric Schmidt, director of the elementary after school programs, FLC. The children drink hot chocolate with whipped cream, watch coffee drinkers click on their laptops and see people check out their paintings. They ask Schmidt questions such as, “What are these people doing here? Is this a museum?”
“The children in the FLC programs don’t identify with Boulder as their community,” said Schmidt. “Their school and the small shops around their neighborhood are their community. At the art opening, they experienced a different culture and saw things they had not seen before. It helped them open up more.”
The FLC is located in the San Juan Del Centro community. Built in 1971 and consisting of 150 units, San Juan Del Centro is Boulder County’s oldest and largest affordable-housing complex. The FLC was founded in 1981 by Brenda Lyle, a mother who lived in the housing project, to offer educational opportunities for children and families.
The I Have a Dream Foundation of Boulder County is a drop-out prevention program for disadvantaged youth. It first collaborated with BMoCA on its Young Artists at Work program to identify “dreamers” for tuition assistance to attend the museum’s summer art workshops.
“BMoCA wants to be part of what these organizations are working on and expand their scope,” said Ashley Mask Harris, director of education. “Art Stop on the Go is an evolution of our relationships with these organizations.”
Taught by Sarah Kinn, a Boulder painter and educator, Art Stop on the Go’s school-year program features weekly art instruction in six-week cycles at the FLC and at the I Have a Dream Foundation’s Iris class. From mid-October through November, Kinn focused on family portraits and preparing a painting to show.
The art was made in stages. Using latex house paint, the children first painted the canvas or board a solid color. Then Kinn introduced the students to stencils, such as flowers or baby deer, that they could add to the painting’s background. Painting the skin without details was the next step. Facial characteristics and clothing were added after the children thought about how they wanted to portray their family.
The paintings show moms, dads, brothers and sisters decked out in a variety of outfits sporting smiles and personalities. Fluffy white clouds, mountains and yellow suns with red rays; collage techniques using newspapers, magazines and construction paper for bodies; and favorite things, such as flowers, stars and soccer balls, give each work a distinctive look.
“The project helped give the children a stronger sense of what family means to them,” Schmidt said, “and [it] helped these kids feel good about who they are.”
On the Bill:
Art Stop on the Go will be on view through December 31 at Trident Booksellers and Café, 940 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-443-2122, www.bmoca.org.
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