Category Archives: garden of fire festival

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

It Takes a Village

The culminating festival for the Garden of Fire was a tremendous success from every aspect.

It takes a village,” as they say, and the program and festival could not have happened without all the amazing educators, artists, and community volunteers. We were delighted to have parents join us in celebrating their children’s accomplishments. The youths are the heart and joy of the program with their enthusiasm and eagerness to try new things.

The Garden of Fire: Summer of Water ironically took place during weeks of severe drought and heat in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. Each week of programs centered on topics including nature, growing cycles, healthy food, and art – highlighting the connection to water, importance of potable (drinkable) water, sounds & rhythms of water through music, reliance on water for life on Earth, and water pollution and conservation.

Suddenly, three days before the festival we were surprised with a series of thunderstorms and downpours. The much-needed water finally came! Naturally, we were a bit worried for the festival, BUT the morning of the celebration the dark clouds cleared and the sun shone bright and hot!

Kids reveled in all the water-themed activities, live music, art displays and games which opened and closed with a special ceremony.

In closing, we thank everyone who contributed and we look forward to 2017!

Amy Ruza
Education Programs Coordinator
The Rockwell Museum

Rain Sticks: Music & Metaphor

In culture and literature from around the world, water represents emotions and obstacles that we need to overcome.

Water comes in all forms.  It can be intense and powerful like with hurricanes, floods and tsunamis; or it can soft and calming like a gentle rain or a babbling brook.

Our emotions work exactly the same way. Difficult life events can be destructive and leave us feeling overwhelmed. Positive life events can leave us feeling at peace. In order to learn how to cope with these emotions, we have to first be able to understand them. Using water as a metaphor can help us do that effectively.

This year for the CareFirst Garden of Fire program, youth participants will be making their very own rain stick as we talk about their emotions and how to cope with them.

Each group will engage in discussion about the history of rain sticks and the cycle of how emotion connects to their personal lives, the community we share and the cycle of re-shaping the earth and regrowth that occur in nature. The cycle of emotion will be connected by demonstrating the relationship between rain and emotions.

Each child will construct and decorate individual rain sticks using animals in nature that they feel best relate to their emotions. A bear could signify anger that they feel or strength and courage within oneself; a chameleon could be interpreted as smart and resourceful to blend into its current surroundings in basic survival.

The sounds made by the rain sticks can also be used to symbolize ones emotions for that time. For example, water can create a gentle or intense sound, which can be used to symbolize ones emotions.

We look forward to The Garden of Fire festival, when all of the children will be together, and will have the opportunity to use their rain sticks to create music as a group.

Tara Chapman
Grief Services Coordinator, CareFirst

THANK YOU!

Thank you to all of the staff, supporters, volunteers, friends, planners, students, leaders and friends who made the Garden of Fire Festival happen on Friday afternoon. Without people like you, who believe in arts education and making our community a special place for children to grow up, projects like this would not be possible.

Too many people to photograph! Here’s a small sampling of the supporters and staffers who made the event possible.

More pictures and videos coming soon! Search #GoFFest on Instagram for another small sampling on videos and pictures.

Call For Volunteers: Garden of Fire Festival, August 14

Click here to sign up! Volunteers like you make extended arts education possible in Corning!>>

The Garden of Fire festival is a culminating celebration of youth learning through artwork, performance, and music. It provides a place and time to joyously celebrate the earth, wind and sky in unison with caregivers, teachers, artists, and community members. The festival also provides opportunities for social interaction; a time when youth are encouraged to interact with their peers outside of a learning environment. The festival is a proven “stage” where non-participating/hesitant youth who desire a place to showcase their learning can demonstrate self-confidence alongside their peers. The program provides the participating youth opportunities to expand their horizons by meeting in different locations and meeting people from other communities.

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Volunteers are needed to help make the Garden of Fire Festival a success! The festival will take place on Friday, August 14, 2015, from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at the new CareFirst facility in Painted Post, NY. Volunteers may sign-up for the full day or for various shifts: choose from a variety of . We appreciate the passion and knowledge that a willing volunteer force provides. All volunteers whose shift runs through lunchtime are welcome to partake in the food and beverages offered. The Festival serves approximately 145 youth, who will be accompanied by 30-40 volunteers, 20 staff members from the partnering organizations, along with community dignitaries and members of various boards.

Click here to sign up! Volunteers like you make extended arts education possible in Corning!>>

The World is Your Garden – Enjoy It!

Standing in a circle with over a hundred children who have just built an art installation out of entirely natural materials, I couldn’t help but feel elated.

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Students created an art installation as part of the Garden of Fire Festival.

The entire year before this moment had been spent planning: writing grants, meeting with a diverse group of organizations, and finally implementing the arts and science programming that we’d worked so hard to create. While, as a member of The ARTS Council of the Southern Finger Lakes, I had played only a small role in it all, I was still exhausted! Yet, in that moment we’d worked so hard to achieve, I experienced a sense of purpose that energized me. The structure the children created used so many of the things they learned over the summer – mathematics and physics, the natural sciences associated with the garden – as well as teamwork and resourcefulness.

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Students worked together to create beautiful mandalas and sculptures from natural materials.

There is much discussion these days on the importance of science and technology in education, especially for under-served youth. There is no disputing that. However, there is less emphasis on the role that the arts play in cultivating the skills that scientists (and other citizens) require. Collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking can never be understood solely from lectures or textbooks. They are learned through implementation, through experience, by the trial and error of making something. This is part of why art is so important in the life of a child. And, this is why the Garden of Fire was created.

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The joy of drumming!

The ARTS Council advocates for arts inside the classroom and outside of it. That is one reason we are proud to be members of the Garden of Fire.  Art, however, extends beyond utility into the sheer joy of beauty. That moment with the children was more than fulfilling, it was beautiful. Nothing captured that transcendence more vividly then, while listening to the children drumming on handmade drums, I looked up to see a monarch butterfly sipping nectar from the blossoms the children had looped into strings in the installation.

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

More photographs from the art installation: