Art Within Reach
During the summer of 2023, I coordinated an Outreach Art Program titled Art Within Reach while working at the Mansfield (Ohio) Art Center. We brought in over 70 youth, ages 4-13, through a partnership with the Mansfield City Schools S.A.F.E Program (Student Achievement Through Family Engagement Program). In addition, I had the honor to teach and curate an art show featuring the self-portraits that each child painted during their time participating in the program. This has been my proudest and humblest moment in my career and life. I want to thank the MAC director, George Whitten, the MAC staff, interns, and instructors, as well as the Mansfield City Schools and Dr. Holly Christie and Phil Mitchell, whom we worked diligently together to be able to provide displaced and vulnerable youth with access to high quality art education.
As the Outreach Coordinator at The Mansfield Art Center, our organization proudly showcased artwork created by young artists in the Mansfield City Schools S. A. F. E. program and North Lake Park summer camps. Featuring self-portraits that highlight the beautiful individuality of each student, kids worked with the MAC team all summer to paint these masterpieces, as well as a variety of other creative projects.
"The Mansfield City School S.A.F.E Program is feeling overwhelmed with gratitude towards all involved in your Art Camps. Partnering with you may give these students the skills needed to accomplish anything, feel valued, and find hidden talents and passions changing their lives forever" - Phil Mitchell, Dr. Holly Christie, Barbara Kern, Kathy Goodwin (Mansfield City Schools)
"Our community can be very proud our summer art programs that are open to all. These programs have been developed over several years, with generous support from community partners, foundations, and the Ohio Arts Council. I would like to thank the high school and college students, art instructors, volunteers, and staff who tirelessly dedicated their time and expertise to the success of these children. I salute these children for completing a successful summer camp." - George Whitten, Executive Director, Mansfield Art Center
"When coming to North Lake camp, children are looking for fun while feeling secure and structured. The people of the Mansfield Art Center bring a lot of this each time they visit a camp. Students enjoy time and have fun learning all types of artistic techniques. Art teachers give them a creative outlet in which they look forward to participate. The children were able to let their imaginations run wild and were encouraged to do so. While all of this is fun, it is still structured and involves steps that students must follow. This encourages them to absorb what they are being taught and to feel the art they are making. The students love their time with the art teachers and are always asking for what’s next." - Tiffiney Sims, North Lake Park Coordinator
I also worked diligently to provide the youth who participated in the camps the opportunity to showcase their art in a gallery exhibition. To make the show as professional as possible, the Mansfield Art Center glassblower, Mandy Grier, handcrafted five glass blown trophies to be handed out to the best portraits. It would have been a difficult decision for me or anyone who worked directly with these children to pick the top five best paintings, so we reached out to community leaders in Mansfield to provide a very difficult decision to jury this exhibition. The jurors’ statements are listed below:
"Art expands the mind and soul. The Art Within Reach Program will impact the children who participated for their entire lives." - Maura Teynor, Richland County Foundation, Chief Advancement Officer
"The powerful self-portraits jump off the canvas and show the impact that art has on the development of our youth. Kudos to those who fund and provide art to all youth equitably in the community." - Jennifer Kime, Downtown Mansfield Inc.
"I love seeing the individual creativity and you can tell from looking that the kids had a lot of FUN!" - Jodi Perry, Chamber of Commerce and Republican Nominee for Mayor of Mansfield
"You can see the time and energy each child has spent to create these pieces. I loved seeing how each child's personality emerged in their painting. Art education is so important during the school year, and possibly more so during the summer." - Allie Watson, Richland County Foundation
"It's powerful to see how art and creating can help youth tap into a piece of themselves that they possibly didn't know existed. Portraits are stunning and reflect the core of innocence and self-discovery. I was fortunate to see how it provided fun and escaped from the world. Art is therapeutic, and there is no doubt that these young and amazing artists have a rightful place in Mansfield's creative community. Their creations left me smiling with a sense of nostalgia and hope." - Aurelio Diaz, Mansfield City Council: Ward 5
Finally, I was able to set up the Mansfield Art Center Scholarship Fund, which will provide free art instruction and classes to youth enrolled in the Mansfield City School's S.A.F.E Program. Through the scholarship fund, I hoped to eliminate any financial barriers that might hinder students’ ability to engage in art education.