There is an increasing momentum, a movement in this community, to embrace the arts in new ways. What was once potential and vision is now becoming a reality. From the skateboard tree to the relocation of the museum to the downtown area, people are starting to understand that art plays many roles in a community.
    For decades, a large core of artists, art patrons, art organizations and art agencies have devotedly supported the idea of creating a more inclusive approach to integrating the arts into our community. The momentum of the art core underpinning has been augmented with a slow migration of creative people to the area.
    Artist Dwight Smith is one of many who have relocated to Fayetteville. Smith brought with him his love of art and sharing the arts with others. Smith and Calvin Sims both relocated to Fayetteville with the idea of retiring and moving from their long standing home — Detroit, Mich. Both had founded the Ellington White Project in Detroit, a nonprofit foundation to teach arts and healthy living to inner city youth.
    Retirement was short-lived as the Ellington White Project moved south. Sims has been recently employed by the Fayetteville Arts Council’s as the artist services liaison. Smith, although recently hired by Fayetteville State University, had already started coordinating the Ellington White Project in Fayetteville last year.
    {mosimage}The result was collaboration with other agencies to make it possible for over thirty children and adolescents to discover the world of visual art and participate in an exhibit at the sfL&a Architects Gallery on Burgess Street.
A project of that magnitude takes leadership, planning and support. This year the project included grant writing, funding from agencies and volunteers from the community.
    The Department of Performing and Fine Arts at Fayetteville State University participated in the program by loaning one of their studio spaces during the summer as a place for the participants to work — a working academic studio.
Funding was received from the Junior League of Fayetteville, a Summertime Kids Grant from the Cumberland Community Foundation, Inc., as well as funding and staff from Cumberland County CommuniCare. (Anthony Summerville from CommuniCare was there to drive the students to Fayetteville State and assist when needed.)
Rose-Ann Bryda, a volunteer for the program, explained how “three classes of about a dozen students each met twice a week. Classes were separated by students’ ages. The teen class met on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, including at-risk adolescents from CommuniCare’s MAJORS and Prevention programs.”
    Bryda continued: “Nine to 12 year olds meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and older youth meet on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. These particular classes are made up of young people from the community and participants in CommuniCare’s Juvenile Assessment Center’s Summer Program.”Volunteer Noreda Hess (photographer) and Fayetteville State University visual art majors (Mike Romagano, Shantel Scott, and Kim Anderson) were there when it was time in July to give each student a Ziplock bag of art supplies (watercolor, drawing pencils, easers, scissors, glue, and osil pastels). The volunteers helped Dwight Smith throughout the summer to interface with the students and share their personal experiences about being an artist and assisting in the classroom.
    Besides the bag of supplies, Bryda noted “the participants were given a simple pre-test to gauge their art knowledge and had fun exploring a three-dimensional assembly project “Genius Kits” from Detroit’s Arts and Scraps. One field trip for one of the classes included a trip to the Fayetteville Museum of Art to see the exhibit Forsaken: Edifice and Landscape.”
    I visited the classes several times and witnessed many of the students quietly exploring the world of color and design. On one of my visits I asked students — whose ages varied between 14 to 15 years old to comment about their experiences in the program.
    Nikki said, “I am learning more about art as a profession;” while Qwon commented, “It was a program I could participate in during the summer months; I will be able to take new techniques back into the classroom when I return to school.”
    Joya said this was her first art class and she was now thinking about attending art school. Monique quickly pointed out that she would like to participate in the program next summer and she had learned new drawing techniques.
    Lauren was happy to inform me that her mother had told her about the program. “I have learned so much about shading and creating depth and also about the tints of an object and color techniques.” 
Lastly, Valerie commented that she had learned many new techniques that added to her art experience since she didn’t take art classes at school.
    When I asked the students how to improve the program, two telling comments were shared with me” Invite more artists into the class to explain their work and find transportation for students who wanted to participate but couldn’t get there.
    I noticed FSU student volunteer Mike Romagano was there regularly to assist. Romagano commented, “It was nice to see artists at such an early stage. I was able to share my ideas with them, and they had ideas to share with me.”
    The program ended in early August.
    I could see lots of colorful work was completed during the program.
    Mediums included — but were not limited to — paper making, painting and drawing. Students took the majority of their work home, while some of their work was part of an exhibit during the August 4th Friday event at sfL&a Architects Gallery.
    Anyone interested in seeing the work completed during the program can visit the exhibit at the sfL&a Architects Gallery on Burgess Street until the third week in September. Gallery hours are regular business hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
    For further information about the success of the project and future projects, contact Rose-Ann Bryda at (910) 425-6670.

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