Watercolors and Glitter

ART’s all-caps name is representative of the enthusiasm and creativity of the group it refers to. Begun last fall under the umbrella of the Chicago Adolescent Mentoring Program and led by University of Chicago students Rachel Reed and Josh Nalven, ART meets every Wednesday and Thursday at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club to hold interactive art classes for children in after-school programs. On any given day, between 10 and 15 rowdy youngsters attend the programs, ready to dive into whatever creative project the group’s several volunteers think up.

A result of a surplus of volunteers for teen tutoring programs, ART fills the need for an art instructor at the HPNC. The Club lost its staff art teacher a few years ago, and its bright, colorful art room stayed empty until ART came along. HPNC has offered programs for children and adults at affordable rates since 1908, but it also has a history of financial problems. According to director Jennifer Bosch, the Club is “losing money, and grants have been on the decline.” All HNPC programs have felt the stress of the recession. The volunteers at ART, having begun the program with plentiful art supplies in many different mediums, have seen their resources dwindle to paper, paint, markers, and “messy supplies” like beans and glitter.

Regardless of difficulty, the volunteers still manage to come up with engaging projects for the youngsters. Last week, children made decoupage squares; earlier in the year, the class made a quilt depicting, on each colorful square, what a child did today and what he or she wanted to do tomorrow. Responses varied wildly, from “go to Disneyland” to “become a superhero!” Reed and Nalven have big plans for future projects: “We want to try clay sculpture and experiment with stamps and photography projects,” says Reed. A lack of funds and volunteers, however, may cut their goals short. But the volunteers stay optimistic: “Well, we’re in a recession, so we might have to make do with watercolors and glitter for now.”