Creating with kids

LSU museum hosts Neighborhood Arts Program workshop

This is a team effort and Mayor Kip Holden suddenly realizes he isn’t the quarterback.

That position goes to 4-year-old Caleb Hall or his twin brother, Christian. They’ve participated in all of the projects of the Neighborhood Arts Program so far, and they know what they’re doing.

They can make a print and paint a picture. And they made the Batman and Spiderman masks worn on this day at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Scotlandville.

But Holden is a rookie artist, and he’s having a little trouble turning a wooden clothespin into a flower. So, his coach, Baton Rouge Magnet High School student Sarah Cage, steps in to help.

“My coach kept me in the game and made me a success,” Holden says, laughing. “She knew that if she took me out, I would cry, so she backed me up all the way.”

Holden holds up his patriotic clothespin with its red, white and blue petals. It will, he says, have a permanent place on his desk at City Hall.

Holden’s approval was immediate when the LSU Museum of Art requested funding for this pilot Neighborhood Arts Program.

“We’re doing it only on Mondays and Wednesdays in July this year,” says Lucy Perera, the museum’s coordinator of School and Community Programs. “The goal will be to do this program every day next summer and then to offer it throughout the year.”

The program is a free outreach project that brings art to children and their families in at-risk neighborhoods. The museum partnered with the Avant Garde Chapter of The Society in Baton Rouge and Holden’s office to make it happen.

Avant Garde members pinpointed the locations for the classes, so art-making is taking place on Mondays at the McKinley Alumni Center on Thomas Delpit Drive and on Wednesdays at Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church on Scenic Highway.

The fun begins at 11 a.m. Children of all ages — it’s averaged out to about 50 per class — show up to work out their artistic muscles. Sometimes a parent joins in, and on this day, even the mayor.

“We did this program when I was at the Harwood Museum in Taos, N.M.,” Perera says. “It’s still going on. The museum was assisted by the University of New Mexico.”

The idea, she says, is to move the LSU Museum of Art outside the confines of its home in the Shaw Center for the Arts downtown. While many children visit the museum on class field trips during the school year, they may not have the means to come during the summer.

“The kids love it,” Perera says of the program. “It gives them something fun to do during the summer. There’s one young boy who was apprehensive at first, but today he was out here early, helping us set up.”

That would be 7-year-old Jaedyn Modica, a student at Rollins Place Elementary School. He’s now another arts veteran, as is 14-year-old Woodlawn High School student Titus White.

“After this program, I think I might give art a try,” White says.

Assisting the youngsters on this day are Avant Garde members Gloria Hall, Beverly Wade, Janifer Peters and Willie Smith, as well as volunteer students from area high schools, like Holden’s “coach” Cage.

The mayor says he plans to make the funding available for next year’s program, which should probably score him a touchdown.

For more information, call (225) 389-7207 or email lperera@lsu.edu.