Garden of Fire Festival: Celebrating the Summer of Earth

The Garden of Fire festival held last Friday, August 18th at CareFirst was fabulous! The festival was tremendously successful, thanks to the outstanding support from the community, amazing educators, talented artists and volunteers.  Here are some pictures from the day. Thank you to Dan Gallagher for documenting the festival so well and capturing the essence of the program through incredible photography and video!

The Native American Council of Corning Incorporated joined us for the opening ceremony.  Musician Sue Spencer lead us through the chants she previously wrote with the youth participants during one of the sessions, drumming to the chorus, “Thank You Mother Earth”.

The activities were a blast.  Thank you to the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, SSC Library, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Corning Museum of Glass, Wegmans – Corning, Zumba Instructors Gianna Lutz and Amanda Wylie and to all the collaborators who made this day so special!

Corning Catering generously supported the festival by providing a tasty lunch for everyone!

Thank you to the Addison and Corning-Painted Post Area School Districts for supporting this program and making Garden of Fire an incredible experience for all the youth participants!

The adobe mud sculptures on display at the festival were created with artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley at one of the sessions leading up to the event.  Watch the Adobe Clay Creation Time Loop Video here.

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The closing ceremony brought everyone together for one last musical chant honoring mother earth.

This program is supported in part by The Triangle Fund, Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes and Rose’s Youth Philanthropists.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to make the event so wonderful!

Amy Ruza
Youth and Family Programs Educator
The Rockwell Museum

 

 

 

 

Creativity and Change

CareFirst has always participated in Garden of Fire with a clear focus of incorporating lessons about life, death, grief, and healthy coping. This year, the Summer of Earth, was no different.

The summer workshop sessions provided by CareFirst staff and other community artists focused on change.   The earth changes with the coming and going of each season just like our emotions and experiences fluctuate over our lifetime.  We can use creativity as a way to adapt, adjust, and even promote change within ourselves.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

In one of the workshops this summer CareFirst instructor, Carly Cushing, and artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley were talking with the students about the changes we see on the earth and in our life while building benches made from natural materials.  The project is a collaborative effort by the four different youth centers, and tends to grow and change as different centers add their own creative touch to it.  By the end of the first session with the Addison Youth Center, they found that their bench had become a Hippo!  The lines and shape of the bench took form and reminded the children of a hippo lumbering out of the water.  This was the perfect inspiration as the instructors were able to reflect on a beautiful story about the experience of change in the natural world.

The students and instructors shared together about the story of Owen and Mzee, a well-known and amazing true story about a close animal friendship (see children’s story “Owen & Mzee” by Isabella Hatkoff).  Owen was a baby Hippo when he was stranded in Kenya after the 2004 Tsunami.  With his mother and the other hippos in his pod having been swept away by the waters, Owen was deserted and almost died.  Villagers tirelessly tried to rescue him but it wasn’t until making it to a Kenyan Animal Sanctuary that he finally started to recover.   It was there that Owen met Mzee, a 130 year old Tortoise.   They became fast friends and Owen started looking to Mzee for support in adjusting to this huge change in his life.  When Mzee ate, Owen ate; when Mzee swam, so did Owen.  Their story of friendship, kindness, and resilience served as the perfect symbol for how all animals found on the earth can cope with the changing seasons throughout our lives.

The natural art the children had created, again, began to morph into exciting possibilities.  By the time the Laura Richardson Houghton Corning Youth center arrived later that day, a plan was put into motion to give our “Owen” his very own “Mzee”.  The children worked hard to create the foundation for a beautiful tortoise.

On day two, the Salvation Army group moved and sifted dirt to create natural clay from our local earth to put the finishing touches on the pair.  As the conversation of growth continued, one of the instructors reflected on the Iroquois belief of how the earth was created.  According to the story, before the earth was created, there was an island floating in the air where the Sky People lived.  A Sky Woman fell from the island where she landed in the vast, open, ocean.  The animals in the water helped the woman on the back of a turtle swimming nearby.  They helped to gather mud and place it on the turtle’s shell, where it grew and grew, eventually changing shape and creating the earth under our feet as we know it today.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

The Hornell Area Concern for Youth were the last group to add to the beautiful creation.  They decided that Sky Woman and the story of how the earth was created should be honored with the sculpture of Mother Nature.  Thus, the work of art changed yet again, leaving a collective group of meaningful sculptures representing CREATIVITY AND CHANGE.

CareFirst welcomes you to come see the sculptures that the children made at the Garden of Fire Festival being held at CareFirst (3805 Meads Creek Road, Painted Post, NY) on Friday, August 18, 2017.

Carly Cushing and Chelsea Ambrose, CareFirst

Gifts from the Earth

The Garden of Fire program is in full steAm! We are now in week five of the six-week summer program, and youth seem to be fully engaged and enjoying each special earth-themed workshop provided by professional artists and educators.

The Earth theme for this year’s program provides ample opportunity to create enriching lesson plans, covering topics of pollution, conservation, sustainability, geology, animals, plants, growth and more.

Incorporating arts and science, engineering and sculpture, natural patterns and math, wellness and wisdom, drumming and rhythm provides a unique, educational experience. It is incredibly rewarding to have the opportunity to teach the youth in the program, knowing that we are impacting and influencing their lives in a positive way.

During the first week of the program, we created 2-dimensional animal habitat scenes using recycled materials – repurposing trash into art!  The youth were very imaginative in their renditions of the animal habitats, transforming the recycled materials into nature and animal textures in their scenes.

In the third week of the program, we sculpted vessels out of clay, the mud of the earth, and decorated them with designs inspired by nature. The completed fossilized vessels resemble actual fossils found in rocks on the earth’s surface.

It is a gift to spend time with each other to discuss, communicate and share ideas.  Encouraging the youth and staff to speak openly without criticism, to make new friends, to interact with peers they do not typically interact with, to try new activities and learn new skills are all gifts to treasure and grow from.  These experiences provide us with the foundation and strength to power our mind, body, and soul.

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Images provided by Dan Gallagher Photography, 2017.

It is our responsibility as artists and educators to give back to the earth by teaching the youth participants to care for, appreciate and respect the beautiful and irreplaceable earth we live on.

Mother earth gives us the gift of nature and the Garden of Fire gives us the gift of spending time together connecting to nature. Through the Garden of Fire collaborative, it is a shared effort to teach and support the children in the community, cherishing the time spent together, and making every teachable moment count.

Amy Ruza, Youth and Family Programs Educator
The Rockwell Museum