Hi, I’m Nicole Bowers and I’m this summer’s marketing intern at Saugatuck Center for the Arts. I’m a soon-to-be senior at Central Michigan University where I study integrative public relations and journalism. Follow me as I take a peek into the classrooms of our Growing Young Artists (GYA) program this summer. I’m so happy to see what this year brings!

DEFINING FAMILY

Family has a different meaning from person to person. Family can be our sisters and brothers, parents and caretakers, grandparents and distant cousins. It can also include our pets, neighbors and friends. It’s both who you choose and who you are surrounded by. The artist in residence, Mandy, offered students time to reflect on the idea of family.

We all have family members we’ve heard of but never met.”- Mandy Cano Villalobos

There are two groups of students this summer, Title 1 kids in the morning and the migrant program in the afternoon. Many of the students have never met and would not likely cross paths.

LETTERS TO GYA FAMILY

Mandy begins each day with “Family Time”, where all the students gather together in a single room. Today, she gave students a writing challenge, compose a letter to a “family” member in the other group. They will continue to exchange letters and meet each other at the end of the program fiesta.

The kids carefully considered what identifies them, in hopes their new “family” member will recognize them when they meet. Is their hair long or short, do they have freckles, do they speak spanish, who is their teacher, what will they be wearing? The kids bent over their clipboards gripping their pencils to concentrate on the task. I looked over and saw two of the youngest girls sharing a clipboard. Some of the younger students improvised with pictures when they got stuck on what to say. It was important all the students participate no matter their age or academic standing.

They created their own envelopes out of CD cases, embellishing them with sequins, feathers, patterned paper and charms. One student couldn’t wait to show me his project. “I made this and whoever gets it is special,” he said. A sense of pride and accomplishment reflected in his eyes.

CONNECTIONS FORM

One of the students is both a returner to the GYA program and a member of the Fennville community. This morning, Rachel Kayes, his GYA instructor noticed from the moment he walked through the door he was having a rough day. She pulled him aside to chat and intentionally sat by him while he worked. Through three separate conversations, she began to see where he was coming from. A less than ideal home life, lack of structure and little eyes that have witnessed many hard times.

I learned so much about him in a span of an hour because I just asked. He seemed to be surprised when I kept asking, but he was very willing to talk. The conversations did not completely fix his behavior, he still had trouble that day, but at least he knows that his story does matter because someone took the time to stop and ask.

–Rachel Kayes GYA instructor

Art-making facilitates good conversations and positive relationships within the classroom. Children who are shy, uncomfortable or reserved become willing to open up and share about their work and their lives. The smaller classroom setting allows instuctors to slow down, and meet each student where they’re at.

A student in the migrant program, Roberto, shines in the program, creating personally meaningful work with attention to detail.

When I engage Roberto in conversation and ask him questions, he loves to share his interests, it has been very cool to see him light up through conversation. He’s proud of what he’s making and his confidence has really grown. ” – Natalie Filipowicz GYA instructor 

Next week, Growing Young Artists board the school bus to visit Saugatuck State Park. Students will feel the sand between their toes while exploring the meaning of family roots and the rich history of this town.

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