Category Archives: Arts Education

Summer of Motion Begins!

By Connie Sullivan-Blum

A new season has begun for the Garden of Fire, an arts and science summer program in Steuben County! The 2019 theme is Movement and we will be exploring everything from the experience of dance to the science behind how plants move! Research has shown that summer programming is important to childhood education because it keeps learning skills fresh. Garden of Fire meets this need with fun and creative sessions.

The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes is proud to collaborate with 171 Cedar Arts Center, CareFirst, Heritage Village of the Southern Finger Lakes, Tanglewood Nature Center and the Rockwell Museum to serve youth in our county. When we give our children the attention they need, they grow up to care for our community. Let’s keep the cycle of life moving with the Garden of Fire!


Garden of Fire 2018 Gathering

Thank you to all of the funders, donors and partners who made another successful Garden of Fire summer learning program possible!

The Garden of Fire Gathering is a celebration of all the accomplishments of the youth participants over the summer.

With more than a million students statewide lacking access to needed after-school and summer programs, we are proud of the efforts we’ve made to extend the benefits of these programs to our local students.  It is essential that community members work together to continue this summer initiative.

The Garden of Fire is made possible by the generosity of the following funders and supporters:

2018 Funders

2018 In-Kind Donors

Week 5: Designs by Nature

During week 5 of the Garden of Fire 2018 Summer Learning Program, students worked with artists Tony Moretti and Gwen Quigley to create pollinators and collages out of found and natural materials.

Tony and Gwen are known for their whimsical creations that unite nature and play, with a focus on teaching the safe usage of tools and materials to youth.



Pollination: A Powerful Metaphor

by CareFirst Grief Services Team
Chelsea Ambrose, Carly Nichols, and Leah Torello

The relationship between people and the natural world is astounding.  We can learn so much from nature and pollination is the perfect example.  That is why CareFirst and 171 Cedar Arts paired up to provide the first week of this year’s Garden of Fire Summer program; Clayful Pollinators. During this session, the kids learned about pollination and how it is a symbol for our ability to cope with life’s challenges.

For example, bees are one of the most common pollinators. They rely on each other and work together for survival, just in the way people need to get support from their loved ones or ask for help during hard times. Bees also live in and create honeycombs which are made out of hexagons. The shape of a hexagon is considered one of the most powerful shapes in nature because of how it fits together and is such an effective utilization of space. The shape represents harmony and balance in nature, something we all need in our lives – emotional, mental and physical balance.


These concepts and many others are powerful symbols that the children integrated into their work while creating a ceramic tile mosaic/ Watching the kids learn about these concepts and create beautiful works of art was an amazing experience. Their minds were truly pollinated by these powerful ideas and we are hopeful these metaphors will stick with them throughout their lives.

Week 4: Pollinating the Imagination

By Jessica Orcutt
Education and Volunteer Programs Coordinator, The Rockwell Museum

This has been my first year participating in the Garden of Fire, and I could not be more excited that this summer’s theme is all about pollination! This is such an important thing to talk about, and Garden of Fire is a perfect opportunity to promote healthy and informed discussion between youth participants, staff and peers.

It is vital that the next generation is well-informed and passionate about protecting pollinating animals like bees, butterflies, bats and birds. As these creatures search for nectar, fruit, or other foods, they unknowingly contribute to the growth of all sorts of fruits and vegetables.

Without these animals, we would not be able to enjoy a lot of foods that are staples in our diets. Can you imagine life without corn, wheat, apples, blueberries, strawberries, grapes, pumpkins, tomatoes, vanilla, or sugar? The list of plants that rely on pollination is almost endless.

At The Rockwell Museum, youth participants had an opportunity to consider pollination in a personal and imaginative way. For our activity, youths thought about how our imaginations are like pollinators – spreading ideas among peers just like bees spread pollen among flowers. The fruit or vegetable that results from a pollinated plant is represented by our artistic creations!

After examining a couple of paintings in The Rockwell’s galleries, the group returned to the Museum’s Education Center to create our very own pollinators. Youth participants drew inspiration from real bees, bugs, and birds; and, created fictional, mythical creatures purely from their imaginations. These fantastical pollinators could be seen at 171 Cedar Arts Center for the final Garden of Fire Gathering on August 10, after which youth participants take their creations home with them!

Week 3: All About Bees!

During week 3 of the Garden of Fire Summer Learning Program, participants visited Tanglewood Nature Center and Museum for a hike, meeting new animal friends and exploring the secret science of bees.

How do plants attract bees and other pollinators to them? Which foods depend on bees for fertilization? What can we do to help the bees? Did do you know a queen bee can lay about 2000 eggs per day? What are the parts of a flower?

Despite the drizzle, students traveled on a hike through the Center, on the lookout for bees collecting pollen on flowers (remembering safety first)! A scavenger hunt helped the students look for many different types of pollinators – including bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds, flowering trees and more.

Week 2: SeedScapes

by Maryalice Little of Harp & HeART

The biological definition of pollination involves birds and bees and flowers. But the idea of pollination can also be used in a broader sense. Pollination also occurs when one idea generates another idea, when one thing leads to another.


This year, CareFirst and Harp & HeART presented Seedscapes in week two of the Garden of Fire program. Maryalice Little played various moods of live harp music, helping to pollinate the ideas that each participant holds in his/her heart and mind. The unique seeds produced will be the creative expressions, the “mark making” using a variety of media, which each participant is inspired to draw.

Last year, a shorter version of this program was offered at the end of summer celebration. After listening to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, the traditional Greensleeves, and an improvisation, one young participant was particularly articulate in her drawings and explanations including ideas of happiness and sadness, a sense of separation and helping each other.Gof.jpg

Is a guinea pig a pollinator?

By student participants Keagan and Destiny of Corning Area Youth Center

Last week, the Corning Youth Center hosted Garden of Fire! Tanglewood Nature Center showed us Powerful Pollinators. A lot of the kids were surprised by the animals. Did you know a pollinator is an animal that moves pollen from a male anther of a flower to the female stigma of a flower? This helps to bring about fertilization of the ovules in the flower.

Some of the animals were owl, bearded dragon, cockroach and guinea pig. Kids were most surprised to see the guinea pig because guinea pigs are sometimes seen as pets and most pollinators are not seen as pets.

The kids loved it they want to do it again. We are looking forward to the next Garden of Fire event.


Week 1: Clayful Pollinators!

This summer’s Garden of Fire program kicked off with a field trip to 171 Cedar Arts Center in Corning, NY. Counselors from CareFirst collaborated with Amanda Warren, artist and ceramic studio technician at 171 Cedar Arts to provide a program that integrates clay-making with mindfulness and emotional well-being.

They started the session with introducing the theme of Powerful Pollinators and had a brainstorming session. They discussed the roles of pollinators in nature and different types of symbolism for pollination. They were asked to choose their favorite pollinator or pollinated plant to design on their tile.

Students sketched designs and ideas for creating their own hive tile out of clay.  After a short demo led by Amanda, students used their sketched ideas to embellish their own clay tile with their designs by using additional clay, stamps and carving tools.

Next, students painted their tiles with underglaze. In groups, youth took turns touring the clay studio and had the opportunity to try out the pottery wheels. The basics of wheel throwing was compared to centering one’s self through life’s challenges. The act of opening, pulling and shaping clay was compared to how we shape our lives by overcoming many obstacles.



A Sweet Relationship with the Natural World

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

Who was the first human to discover the sweetness of honey?

How did they take the leap from simply stealing honey from a hive to actually cultivating the bees?

Our relationship with the natural world has been formed over time by creative surges. 


Every tool we’ve designed, every plant discovered, every recipe concocted, every animal domesticated, every continent explored represents a mixture of imagination and trial and error, which are in turn the building blocks of art and science.  From this foundation, history pollinates the future.

The Garden of Fire program celebrates the artist and scientist in all of our children!