Category Archives: Arts Education

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

STEM to STEAM

At this point in our history, educational priorities are focused on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. This is a lopsided view of values in education. We need to encourage our school districts and educators to prioritize STEAM: science, technology, engineering, ART and math.

Artwork is the application of many of these other areas of education. Artists deal with physics and chemistry because they work with materials that have specific properties and limits. They deal with mathematics as they confront geometry, measurements and mechanics. Technology and engineering are utilized as they are in every other arena of production – the thing produced must work! It must be stable and function.

Artwork has been devalued as impractical. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet, at the same time, artwork is creative.  It can be fanciful. This should not be used to denigrate art, but rather to reveal what it has to offer to other disciplines. Engineers and scientists must be creative. They must be inventive. Like artists, they must explore the boundaries of what has already been done to see what might be done.

Education must encourage creativity in all its forms. This will help our children build a world that can address unforeseen challenges including repercussions from climate change, population pressures and changing social, political, and environmental situations. Now, more than ever, we need our artists to give us the vision – a practical vision – for the future.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire are not worried about any of this. They are simply learning and having fun. It is our job to think about this on their behalf.

Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes

 

 

A Friendly Plug

We were so pleased to have the Southeast Steuben County Library participate in this year’s Garden of Fire Festival.

Partner in art, Erica Unterman, is an art adventurer currently disguised as a Youth Specialist at the public library.  She designs programs for children of all ages.

For the Garden of Fire Festival she offered something super unique and FUN: squirt gun painting!

Read all about it on the “Teen Tones” blog!>>

Creating Fertile Ground for Healing, Growth, and Endless Possibilities

When a child is able to connect an experience in their life to the broader world around them, something magical happens!

There is a moment. An expression. A pause. A light bulb turns on, and a child who is struggling no longer feels alone. They feel safe. They feel understood. That is the moment in which we as counselors and educators can truly make a difference. When that moment combines with laughter, play, and creativity, then the possibilities for healing are endless.

Don’t get me wrong, these experiences are rare. Those of us who work with at-risk youth focus all efforts on creating those kinds of moments, but the truth is that you can’t force them – all you can do is create the space for them to happen. This work is what CareFirst and all of the other Garden of Fire partners are trying to accomplish in our summer programming. In the recent Rain Stick Making workshop led by CareFirst’s Tara Chapman, these moments were abundant.

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Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

You can see the look in their eye as they were able to connect their emotional experiences to the world around them, and specifically, to this year’s theme of water. The children were able to talk about their life, times when they had difficult things happen, and how they cope with the intense emotions of life we all feel.  They used the symbol of water and created rain sticks that allowed them to create music and express themselves in a new and unique way.

These kinds of activities are what help young minds grow.

When we as humans combine nature and creativity with a chance to process our emotions and focus on our own well-being, it creates fertile ground for healing, growth, and endless possibilities.

There is no greater blessing than to see this in our youth and to know that the future of tomorrow is being left in the hands of children who have not only expanded their minds, but healed their hearts.

Chelsea E. Ambrose
Counseling Services Manager, CareFirst

“When the earth needs a drink, Mother Nature makes it Rain!”

There is something about the smell that lingers in the air after a rainstorm in the summer time… for me it is extremely calming and refreshing, and it brings back many memories of summers spent playing outside as a child.

Unfortunately, this summer we have had very few rainstorms, meaning far fewer chances to enjoy this experience. However, this week we were lucky enough to receive some much needed rain!

The rain triggered a conversation between myself and a 9-year-old girl. I asked her why she thought rain was important, and her answer was sweet and simple: “It helps everything on the earth, like plants so they are able to grow, and for people to drink!” She then continued with “When the earth needs a drink, Mother Nature makes it rain!”

 The Garden of Fire continues to spark imaginations this year with the theme of WATER.

So far this summer the Corning Youth Center has visited The Rockwell Museum to make clay animal sculptures to protect their gardens, they have made and decorated their own rain sticks while learning about how to cope with their own emotions, and they have visited the Tanglewood Nature Center to go on a hike, meet some of their fascinating animals, and participate in a drumming circle, all while learning about the importance of water.

In each of these activities youth were encouraged to use their imaginations and to be creative. For their animal sculptures at The Rockwell, each youth was asked to choose a specific animal that they themselves could relate to. Some youth chose a bird, some chose snakes, another chose an elephant, and a young girl chose a lion. When asked why she chose a lion, specifically a male lion, she said:

“Because lions are strong, courageous, and fierce, like me!”

These moments are why we love Garden of Fire.

Ashlee Peachey
Laura Richardson Houghton Corning Youth Center

 

Photos courtesy of Dan Gallagher Photography

Science & Art

What is the connection between science and art?

This is the type of question that adults might ask when they hear about the Garden of Fire summer program. We have been taught to see science and art as antithetical. Science is objective while art is subjective. Science is a product of reason and art is a product of emotion.

Garden of Fire challenges those assumptions.

The impulse to make art may start out with emotion, but there is a lot of rational thought that goes into making a piece of art a reality. The artist deals with materials whose physical properties determine how they can be used. Like scientists and engineers, artists are constantly pushing the physical limits of their materials – inventing new ways for the materials to be used. As with science and engineering, invention requires mathematics, physics, and chemistry.

On the other hand, we imagine science as a bloodless pursuit devoid of emotion and passion, but this is not the case. Scientists are creative and inventive, asking questions about common sense assumptions and breaking boundaries. Like art, science can be disturbing, exciting, awe inspiring.

The students involved in the Garden of Fire don’t think about art and science this way at all. They haven’t fully absorbed society’s message that there is a deep divide between the two endeavors. They’re just having fun learning.

Garden of Fire summer program launches next week – and we couldn’t be more excited!

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Connie Sullivan-Blum
Executive Director of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes