The English idiom, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, has never been more true at the George M. Ferris Jr. Clubhouse 6. The newly launched Arts Academy program is designed to encourage imaginative expression and foster awareness of the visual arts.  Youth learn about artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds by examining the artist’s work and then creating a work of art of their own.

The first phase of the curriculum was titled ‘Picture Lady’, which was developed and supported by the Women’s Leadership Group (WLG). Led by Ellen Kay, a member of WLG, the first session focused on creating a quilt based on Faith Ringgold, the African American artist and author.  Her vibrant quilt art and history of persistence while growing up in Harlem during the Great Depression provides a rich learning experience.  In the preceding workshop, Club members created original African mask.

Club member, Brookelyn, age 7, shared her inspiration behind her artwork. “I have a lot of memories and that’s why I love the quilt. It lets me draw all of the love I have.”

Patty Andringa, Founder and Chairman of the Women’s Leadership Group and past BGCGW Metro Board chair, speaks of the impact and excitement about the program. “With the emphasis in schools on core curriculum such as reading and math, arts programs are often minimally available or frequently nonexistent.  Yet it has been proven in study after study how important the arts are to childhood development.  From improving academic performance, motor skills and focus to fostering collaboration, accountability, confidence, creativity and perseverance, the arts are a critical component of learning from a very young age.  We are so proud of BGCGW’s continuing growth in opportunities for our BGCGW kids.  The Picture Lady is the latest in our arts outreach!”

The Arts Academy is stimulating the creative minds of our youth. Lily Banning, Cultural Arts & STEAM Manager, has had a front row seat at this new world of exploration. “It’s clear to me that the Arts Academy has provided Club members a creative outlet and greater exposure to arts. It’s been most meaningful to see them react to the recent lesson, “Expressionism and painting from a memory.  This prompted a wide variety of responses from illustrating moments with their family, to a reaction to current events like the Orlando shooting.”

As for future activities, the kids will take a field trip to see Jacob Lawrence’s African migration series at the Phillips Collection.  Lily adds, “Parents have also commented on what a valuable program this is and shared their excitement for the culminating art exhibit of the students’ work in December.”