ArtWell Festival

ArtWell Festival Postcard FINAL flipside 2015 (1)

Sunday, May 31, 1-5 p.m.
Celebrating young artists!

Participate. Create.  Connect.  Dream.
Join us for a day filled with music, live performances, poetry readings, art reception, make-and-take art activities, tasty food trucks, and much more—as we celebrate the students, leaders and community members who are a part of the ArtWell family and make Philadelphia a better place.  All ages are welcome.  FREE!

Student’s arts-based social action projects from ArtWell’s Art of Growing Leaders sites will be on view.  Tour their incredible works, hear from the students themselves, and participate in free art, poetry, drumming and dance activities for all ages, led by talented, professional teaching artists!

Woven throughout the festival, guests will also have the opportunity to be part of a completely one-of-a-kind, arts-infused gathering of Philadelphians as we collectively join together and create a vision for our community’s future. Through art, performance and dialogue, we will create a vision for what education in Philadelphia could look like in our most hopeful future, and map ways to get there.

Add the event to your calendar!

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A Critical Time to Support our Youth

Bache Martin Mosaic Installation 2014 MasterPeace Acceptance Calm Success Family TilesBy: Alyson Giantisco – ArtWell staff

Philadelphia has emerged as one of the top cities in the world for the arts, entertainment, and culture. You may have heard the buzz as our city continues to top major Best of Lists including: Bicycling magazine’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities, Bleacher Report’s Best City to be a Sports Fan, Travel + Leisure calling Philly “America’s next great food city”, SAVEUR Magazine declaring Philadelphia America’s Best Sandwich City, ranking #2 on Conde Nast’s Best Shopping Cities in the World, and #3 on Places to Go in 2015 by The New York Times.

However, Philadelphia still has a long way to go in order to lift up and provide real opportunity for every member of our community. In Philadelphia, over half of the adult population—an estimated 550,000 individuals—are considered low literate. At this level, they would struggle to fill out a form such as a job application or follow written instructions.* Additionally, over 200,000 adults in Philadelphia do not have a high school diploma. As a result, they are nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as an individual with a secondary school credential.**

The Philadelphia School District continues to face real challenges in meeting the needs of the students in our city. At the beginning of the school year, Math, English, and Spanish classes at Central High School had 50-70 kids due to cuts in teachers and staffing. And with a $71 million budget deficit looming over the district for 2015-16, Principal Tim McKenna says everybody should brace themselves for another round of cuts next school year.***

It is clear that the work ArtWell does is more important than ever. Our programs support Philadelphia classrooms and their teachers: building literacy and school engagement by inviting students to participate in reflective projects designed for the success of all students regardless of background or reading level. We may ask students to create a poem about what it feels like when they are listened to, or how they create sanctuary and safe places in their lives. Students of all levels can complete these assignments, and through these assignments, they learn that they can create poetry, story, art, and music that they feel proud of.

Stay tuned for examples of lessons and experiences for building literacy through poetry in the coming months.

Read how teaching artist Cathy Cohen is volunteering her time to make sure every child is on the same reading level.

* Excel Philadelphia, “Help Wanted”, 2009
** U.S. Census Bureau, 2011 American Community Survey
*** NPR Ed, November 2014

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Fostering Young Poets

 

CathyTeaching_at_Temple_IndonesianStudentsA crowd of students rush down the hallway towards teaching artist Cathy Cohen, knocking into each other as they wrap her in a big group hug, breathlessly asking her,  “Are you coming to our classroom today?”

When Cathy smiles, her eyes sparkle.  It is easy to see why her students love her.  She has a gentle voice, and warmth about her that invites people in.  She knew she wanted to be a teacher at the age of 15 when she started tutoring.   45 years later, with a doctorate in learning differences from Northwestern University, and thousands of teaching hours under her belt, Cathy still feels the calling to inspire and mentor children.   Cathy joined ArtWell in our third year and the match was magical.  She brought a wealth of expertise in poetry and teaching, as well as amazing relationships with partners of diverse faiths and cultures.

“I became a poet in the 5th grade.  I had a fantastic teacher who loved poetry and encouraged those of us who were shy and introverted to come out of their shell.  Being given the time to explore changed my life.  You don’t see that as much today.  Kids have such busy schedules with so much they are responsible for, not enough time is being given to exploring their strengths and expressing themselves through writing, thinking, reading and practice,” she relays.

Cathy makes it a point to give her students the space to discover themselves by simplifying the lessons which helps make poetry accessible to kids at all levels.

“I have learned that if a child has missed something or is experiencing a problem that may be particularly challenging, there is always another way to learn it.  I started out studying special education, where we learned to break tasks down to create a simplified, step-by-step approach to learning. By breaking down tasks, we can more easily assess their strengths,” she reflects.

In one of Cathy’s current ArtWell classes, this is making a profound difference with a class of 27 third graders.   “We were working on an exercise that was a creative introduction to metaphor. The children told vivid verbal descriptions but when it came time to write them down, they didn’t feel comfortable with spelling or grammar. They had so much to say but their poems didn’t reflect that.  I talked to their teachers, who are all great teachers, who had the same observations about their students.  With classes today being so large, with a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time, only so much could be done.  I felt so close to these children…and wanted to help.  I thought ‘if only they could be more comfortable reading or writing, they could accomplish so much more.’”

In response, Cathy  began volunteering to tutor several students every Tuesday and Friday, and enlisted three other adults to help. Together, they have created an intimate support system where the kids feel comfortable sharing, exploring, making mistakes, and learning. She developed guidelines for the group that foster kindness, and encourage the students to take risks within the safety of the group.

The results have exceeded her expectations.

“I had one little guy who used to sleep in class all the time; he always put his head down.  You see that a lot.  I saw him in fights with other kids, and I really worried about him.  I spoke with his teacher who agreed that he was so smart, but didn’t feel comfortable with his writing or sharing with the group.  We knew he needed more 1-1 time in order to learn how to apply his talent.  Since we have been working with him more regularly, I have seen him open up.  He volunteers to help out more, and feels more comfortable writing and sharing his poetry with the group,” she says.

Many of these students are now coming closer to reading at grade level and are inspired by their growing lives as budding poets and writers.  ArtWell’s mission connects teachers to their passion and opens the doors to students curiosity and creativity that is waiting to be tapped.

If you’d like to learn how you can volunteer your time to help ArtWell in a variety of capacities, contact us today!

 

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Open Call: Join the ArtWell Poetry Slam Team!

If you or someone you know is in Grade 8-12, interested in writing, rapping or singing, consider joining ArtWell’s Poetry  Slam Team, part of the Philly Youth Poetry Movement Slam League!  ArtWell teaching artists Noel Quiñones and Sara Graybeal will provide students with expert coaching and the opportunity to become immersed in Philadelphia’s spoken word slam poetry scene.  This is a wonderful chance for high schoolers to become part of a supportive team of their peers who share a passion for creative expression!  Sign up today!  slam@theartwell.org

Workshops:   Saturdays in February | 10:30 am – 12 noon
Painted Bride Art Center

Performances:  Fridays in February | 4:30 – 6:30 pm
Freedom Theatre

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Sneak Peek into the Classroom: La Salle Academy

la salle masks

An ArtWell first: two girls from La Salle successfully made masks on each other at the same time!

Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

This is one of the mantras behind the mask-making lesson, which is the heart of ArtWell’s Art of Growing Leaders program.

At La Salle Academy, over a dozen 7th and 8th-grade girls have gathered each week since October to talk with teaching artists Julia Terry and Kara Rutledge about how taking risks is how you discover what your strengths and weaknesses are, how you discover more about yourself, and how you learn and grow.  Taking risks involve having new experiences.  At this tender age, the girls are beginning their critically important transition into adulthood.  This is a turning point in their development.

To prepare them for the transition, Julia and Kara took each of the girls on a personal journey that involved risk-taking and self-discovery through mask-making.  But before they began crafting their masks, they started with a blank paper, pondering the qualities they admired in themselves and others, and also the qualities they wanted to possess in the future.  A safe space was created for each student to map out and design the person they wanted to become. They discussed how masks are powerful metaphors for so many things.  They can conceal or reveal who you are. The girls opened up and discussed the feelings, thoughts and fears they usually keep hidden.  They shared strengths and talents they are normally afraid to share because they don’t want to brag or be told that they don’t possess those qualities.  Julia and Kara reinforced that being a girl means that they can be anything.

For many of the girls, mask-making was an experience unlike anything they had ever participated in. The girls were hesitant at first.  But teaching artist Julia Terry harnessed the power of mentorship.  Some of the 8th grade girls had participated in the program last year and were comfortable with the mask-making process.  She paired a 7th grader up with an 8th grader to help guide them in a supportive way.  The mentorship angle paid off.  Over the next 2 weeks, Julia and Kara witnessed how the older students reached out and cared for the younger students, and how the act of helping each other created a model for how to treat others in a nurturing, kind way.  Each girl became completely absorbed with the exercise, smearing Vaseline and laying plaster gauze over her peer’s face carefully and intentionally – treating her with respect – with how she wished to be treated in return.

 

 

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Philadelphia’s Visionary Leaders meet @ ArtWell

ArtWell_1968_029 (2)Visionary Leaders from across Philadelphia recently gathered at ArtWell to be part of an important dialogue about how a collective group of leaders can mobilize to create change, specifically, within ArtWell’s classrooms.  ArtWell hand-selected the inspirational Visionary Leaders based of off their impressive personal achievements and great vision for our city.

ArtWell teachers and staff unveiled the exciting new program, the Art of Growing Leaders, funded by Impact100, and invited the leaders to be part of the program by either becoming a personal mentor to a student, or by developing a supplement to be taught in the classroom about what it takes to become a leader.  The response was overwhelming.  The presence, participation, vision and creativity made it a truly inspiring afternoon.
View photos from the event!

Opening Speech by ArtWell’s Executive Director,
Susan Teegen-Case:
30 Years ago: I am 1000% certain that I would not have envisioned being with all of you, and amazing and inspiring gathering of Visionary Leaders.  I was in graduate school at Princeton Theological Seminary at which time I was also experiencing a serious back injury and several unexpected losses that somehow were the perfect storm that made it IMPOSSIBLE for me to concentrate and to access my usual ways of coping. Totally Lost and ..Terrified both felt like radical understatements to my condition at the time. I knew I was incapable of meeting my esteemed institution’s expectations much less my own.  Because I was felt hopeless in the library trying to write papers and study for exams, I signed up for a watercolor class….and discovered a whole new world…NOT the world that the art teacher envisioned…but a new world for me, where I could have cared less about what she thought, as was completely amazed at the intensity and flow of the Cadmium Red across my whole paper as I heard the teacher gasp: Oh no, you just ruined that painting…and I knew that Oh Yes, this was a key to totally uncharted territory!

This experience repeated itself, as I found time and time again, that by showing up at a completely BLANK …totally EMPTY canvas…whole new worlds …feelings, images…and visions emerged. So much so, that I focused the rest of my graduate work on exploring artists and communities that had found meaning…and THRIVING amidst overwhelming challenges through a commitment to soulful artistic expression. This exploration was truly an anchor as my previously constructed self and world fell apart piece by piece…in order to emerge into a configuration that was in the end…TOTALLY beyond my wildest hopes and dreams.

30 Years ago, I had NO idea that Albert Einstein whose home I walked by every day in my efforts to literally put one foot in front of the next: actually was heard saying: I must be willing to give up what I am in order to become what I will be” I could NOT see what I see now: a room full of faces of extraordinary leaders who inspire me..and all of us at ArtWell with your courage…your vision…your tenacity to show up and take yet another step amidst incredible obstacles…your LOVE for this city..this region…for the vision of a city that can embody sisterly and brotherly love…for your investment not in the I of your knowing…but in the WE that is our true power. 30 years ago, I of course had no idea that I would be at my now annual participation in the Philanthropy Network where I was along with several of you yesterday. The focus was Sparking Solutions for Collective Impact…where Stacey Holland shared that she had the chance to talk with one of the last Freedom Riders, and they talked about We Can Solve anything…but Will We? Many things competing for our attention: the challenge is to pick something that you are really mad about…Get on that bus, and Stay on the bus until the issue is solved.  At ArtWell, our bus is our belief that arts education is civil right that all our kids …that means all kids are entitled too.

And for their full creative development we want them to know Visionary Leaders of all shapes, sizes, shades. Not only those who they read about in books..though those leaders too! We want them to know the Visionary Leaders in their own lives: the teachers, principals, grandmothers and fathers, leaders in our city of diverse callings…who face incredible obstacles and witness how they treat these obstacles as opportunities for change…and who channel their outrage into fuel for social change! who go deeper…are draw on connections to the LOVE…even in the midst of it all…are inspired by Love of Life, and by the Vision of our City and Region…the vision that we can have/ can be the city of true sisterly and brotherly love.

We know we are this…because of you with your extraordinary hearts, minds and lives at work…You who Never give up on Love. Love of the Visions that come in different shapes, sizes and shades of a realized Beloved Community, Love of the Creative Process that sparks the genius in everyone and in the collective…Love of the vision that all of our youth 2 deserve a free and fair public education, Love of the ending of racial inequities with Libraries and Learning for all.  Love of a city where all are safe and also respected …including for their beliefs…and Love for the belief that people of very different faiths and walks of life can work together for the common good. Love of peace and honor and resources for our elders… Love of a place where there are homes and jobs for all. Love of our earth…and the ability to live in awe and wonder and harmony with the natural world and all of our relations.  Love that calls us to lay down our egos, our greed, our guns and open our arms and hearts to what is most, so that all our youth know amidst the serious challenges…there are many many gifts and treasures…there is an abundance of vision, hope and love in our communities, and that we can work together to create the city and world that we all want to live in together.

You get the picture: you Know this picture…You are an essential part of this picture and we are so honored with your presence and the chance to honor you today…I also feel honored to share this time with others who I know as Visionary Leaders with ArtWell.

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Spike Lee visits ArtWell!

ArtWell staff with Spike Lee, from left to right:  Meixun Li, Kris Smith, Shira Burcat, Susan Teegan-Case, Julia Terry

ArtWell staff with Spike Lee, from left to right:
Meixun Li, Kris Smith, Shira Burcat, Susan Teegen-Case, Julia Terry

“Hi, this is Spike. (Silence.) Why are you laughing?” said the voice on the phone.

It’s not every day that Spike Lee calls.  But, that’s exactly what happened to ArtWell’s program director, Julia Terry, earlier this month. She had received an email from his production company the day prior, and shrugged it off as spam. But when Spike Lee called her personally the next morning, she was completely surprised (hence, the laughing)…and a little curious.

Spike was interested in discussing the program Julia created and brought to ArtWell, the Art of Growing Up, and explained that he was working on something about local Philadelphian, Mo’Ne Davis .  “I was excited that Spike showed an interest in our program, and intrigued to think of what the connection could be between Mo’Ne Davis and the Art of Growing Up,” she explains.

The man moves fast.  After that phone call, he boarded a train, Philadelphia-bound, to speak with Julia in person.  By 4 pm, she was shaking his hand in the parking lot of ArtWell’s office building.  It was a meeting of great minds.  She learned that he was working on a documentary about Mo’Ne Davis entitled Throwing Like a Girl.  He wanted to shine a light on what Mo’Ne’s successes as a little league pitcher meant in the larger context of adolescent girls’ development and gender norms.  Julia’s program, the Art of Growing Up, was developed to celebrate and support young people at a critical transition from childhood to adulthood by providing tools for creative youth development.  One of the key goals of the program is the creation of a safe space where youth can be their authentic selves and are empowered to create, take risks, connect with others and grow in healthy and positive ways.

Julia created the program as her senior thesis at Hampshire College, after her experience studying in Africa. “In Ghana, I witnessed a community where art, celebration and ritual are a part of everyday lives, where it shapes young people and provides guidance as they transition into adulthood.  It provides them with tools and resources to navigate the unpredictable,” she explains.  Spike recognized that Julia’s expertise was what he was looking to capture, and two short days later, was back to film.

“It was intense to walk out to the courtyard with 2 chairs staring at each other, and nothing else.  But, Spike was amazing.  He told me to ignore the cameras and just focus on the two of us.  For some reason, one of the cameras wasn’t working, and he was jokingly yelling out jabs to the cameraman, ‘unacceptable!’ and ‘incompetent!’ which really broke the ice,” relayed Julia, laughing.

Upon watching the film she was thrilled that the themes she has so passionately made her life’s work, resonated in the finished piece.  “The most amazing thing about Mo’Ne Davis is how she carries herself.  At age 13, there is more pressure on her than there was at age 7 when she began playing.  But, she has this great confidence, and can be herself at an age where that is especially hard. Mo’Ne is an example of the potential we see in all of our students.  She shows us what all young people are capable of when you give them the support to explore and share their talents.  ArtWell interacts with remarkable kids, young leaders and role models every day whose stories inspire and teach us so much when we listen. Arts education is a powerful way to empower and amplify student’s voices,” states Julia.

From the entire staff at ArtWell, thank you to Spike Lee for shining a light on what’s possible for our youth, and sharing a dream that has been awakened with the world.

And thank you to the generous women who are IMPACT100, whose amazing grant allowed ArtWell to expand the Art of Growing Up into a yearlong program to nurture more young leaders like Mo’Ne Davis, and serve over 400 of Philadelphia’s children. Stay tuned for more about the Art of Growing Leaders!

Please consider a donation, which will help fund additional classes for Philadelphia’s youth.

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Mining For Treasures in Our Youth

JoeTehron

Isn’t it great to get an insider’s look at what our youth are doing? If you read our last blog on the fantastic work Joe Brenman did with the 7th and 8th grade classes at Bache Martin, then this bit of news might also appeal to you.

It is not unusual for one or two students to blossom in extraordinary ways after working with our skilled teaching artists. In fact we encourage our youth to try hard and risk failure in order to test their boundaries and find their strengths. This is the process of refining character. In our workshops, skill and talent take a back seat to this kind of learning. We are in the business of helping young minds become more ambitious and fearless in their creativity because we truly believe that our youth are at risk for greatness.

Joe discovered that one of his students at Bache Martin uniquely exhibited all of these skills and more. “Tehron stood out as an artist,” Joe said of his young apprentice. “He was very serious about the way he pursued the art things we did.” While working with Tehron, Joe discovered that the young man was passionate about the elective project, skilled at the mosaic making process and demonstrated leadership abilities that made the mural what it is today. Joe went on to say that Tehron, “had a very good design sense. He was really the one to lead everyone in designing the whole mural, and was polite even though he was very gifted.”

Joe wondered what Tehron would do with his gift and soon learned that he desired to keep working in the arts. For a while Tehron dreamt of becoming one of the youth to attend the Young Artist Workshop at Moore College of Art & Design, but tuition was difficult to make. Fortunately for Tehron, Joe knew that ArtWell board member, Natalie Payne, offers scholarships for students in the Philadelphia area to participate in the Young Artist Workshop. Recently she named one of the scholarships in honor of ArtWell. Joe recommended Tehron and he got the ArtWell scholarship and is now attending the 5 week long Young Artist Workshop at Moore.

It is an honor to see young minds like Tehron grow their wings and begin to take flight in our classes. Joe is very proud of him and wishes him well saying, “I hope he finds a way for doing his art and that he does it with his whole life.” You can see Tehron smiling above with Joe at his 8th grade graduation.

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Teaching & Working Artist: Sara Graybeal

chapbook.photo (1)

ArtWell is home to some of Philadelphia’s most diverse artists. These nonconventional thinkers are constantly living outside of the box and are the teachers we trust to deliver our key lessons in your classrooms.

Meet Sara Graybeal. Sara is a writer and a spoken word artist and the current leader of the Youth Leadership Council. The YLC is an honest depiction of how poetry and art influence the lives of young people here in Philadelphia.

Starting at Parkway West in 2012, teens who had participated in grant funded We The Poets workshops asked to continue generating poetry under a mentor. This volunteer after school program, provided for teens across Philadelphia has enabled young poets from all walks of life to perform live, workshop their pieces under critical eye, and build a community of wordsmiths.

Sara Graybeal has taken on the leadership of these ambitious young writers and brings with her a background of sculpting works in the genres of  fiction, memoir, and poetry. Every writer needs an editor, and to keep her writing fresh, Sara maintains a membership at the Backyard Writers fiction workshop group out of the Kelly Writers’ House.

Two poems based on her experiences as an educator are forthcoming in Apiary Online and the Asteroid Belt Almanac, both Philly-based publications. To find out more about her writing and her work with young poet groups, check out her recent poem “Heirloom.” Her work with YouthBuild Charter School students can be found here as well.

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Philadelphia’s New Poet Laureate

photo 5This morning Mayor Michael Nutter announced the second Poet Laureate to represent Philadelphia in the medium of poetry. In 2012 Sonia Sanchez became the first Poet Laureate to represent the city. Authoring over a dozen books and plays as well as children’s books, Sonia Sanchez is best known for her work in the black arts movement and received both the Pew Fellowship In the Arts and ArtWell’s own Visionary Leadership Award due to her dedication to youth leadership.

After much deliberation, the laureate panel of which our own Dr. Cathy Cohen participated, Frank Sherlock was officially given the title as Philadelphia’s Poet Laureate for the 2014-2016 period. The reading of an original poem was preceded by a reading from Siduri Beckman, who was named the first student Poet Laureate in 2013.

Self taught Frank Sherlock can attribute his inauguration to the familiar way he articulates Philadelphian life, the cities culture and its diverse citizens. Mayor Nutter called Sherlock “the most talented home-grown artist.”

We are excited and honored to be a part of a movement to expand and deepen youth poetry in Philadelphia; a city so dedicated to poetry and the arts.

 

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