Guest Post, Successful Actions

Artists Creating Better Communities

Help 2 Succeed encourages community art projectsI live in a small town. There is not really much for people to do here, no movies, skating, river, lake, bowling, dancing, etc. There are a couple of restaurants and a couple of bars. Sometimes we have a swimming pool in summer, but not this summer.

I thought it might be a very good idea to teach art and music to children. Last year I decided I could teach two classes – watercolor painting and drawing – and I met with the Community Development Director of the City and she was delighted. She said she would distribute the promo for it. I made up a black and white flier, the city printed it off and sent it home through the schools via the kids. The City donated the space for my first classes at the Community Center and to my amazement 16 students showed up to the first class – beginning drawing.

I offered classes in the fall and added polymer clay, collage and mask making. I offered entire afternoon of art every day of winter break and hired a high school student to help me. I also added music and Puppet Theater.

For spring break the local Arts Association got involved and began helping administratively and with other teachers. And the classes this summer include weaving and pastels with other teachers besides me.

I still teach several of the kids’ classes, and I teach adult classes. I also teach guitar to beginners.

It’s not free – it’s not that you have to volunteer your time and art supplies, although I did for a while. The parents are happy to pay a low fee. All the materials are provided from the fee and the teacher gets paid, too. $50 fee for 4 classes is about as low as we could make it.

The classes and art activities have made a difference in our community. Some of these kids are great little artists, and they would have no chance for art supplies or classes otherwise.

It is nicer to have a group and share the hats of the activity, but it just takes one person to start it. I did it because I wanted to teach. I’ve been making a living as an artist for 20 years and I wanted to give some back. I’ve wanted to teach for years – I guess I was just too shy to stick my neck out there.

You be the one to stick your neck out and start something in your community. You don’t have to start a children’s art institution. You could help the Girl Scouts get their art badges. Or Boy Scouts. I’ve done both. If you are a musician you could play music once a week at an assisted living facility or other senior facility. I’ve been doing that every Wednesday for 20 years.

Don’t think about it too much. Just get out and talk to your community directors or city government or the guy who owns the vacant building down the street. Put your ideas into action and make a difference.

Elizabeth Sullivan
Wild Spirit Artworks

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