Fishtown artist to teach unique classes for kids

Fishtown resident Ellissa Collier said that in an inspiring place like Philadelphia, all the city’s kids have artistic potential.

She should know — the 32-year-old teaching artist has her hand in many artistic ventures around the city, and quite a few bring kids into the mix.

Beginning in July, Collier will teach four unique art classes at Woodmere Art Museum, at 9201 Germantown Ave., and she said though the museum is a bit of a hike from the river wards, the opportunity for young artists to explore their talents is well worth the trip — especially because Woodmere offers free busing and scholarships.

“It’s very important for [kids] to find things that they are interested in, and that will be beneficial for them,” she said. “There are so many alternatives in Philadelphia that aren’t the best. Art is something positive.”

Collier, who has lived in Fishtown since 2007, has worked with Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program for five years. Along with continuing to teach at that program and Woodmere, she teaches at the Moore College of Art and Design in Center City and has been working alongside students in city detention centers to create two separate murals in those buildings.

She also sold some of her work at the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival this past May.

Collier said Fishtown is a great place for artists.

“There’s really great, fresh energy,” she said. “I’m not from here, and that’s what brought me here.”

Collier said she hopes that Fishtown kids, along with kids from all neighborhoods in Philadelphia, can participate in the classes she teaches.

“I don’t think the schools can actually provide the same level [of artistic instruction] that some of these nonprofits can,” she said.

Pam Birmingham, curator of education for Woodmere, said that a mutual friend in connection with the Moore College of Art and Design introduced Birmingham and Collier, and the two decided what classes Collier wanted to teach at the museum.

“She’s just a natural,” Birmingham said of Collier.

In July, Collier will be teaching 6 to 11 year-old children two classes: “Noise Makers” — in which the students will make artistic musical instruments — and “Traditional Japanese Crafts,” in which the students will explore Japanese art techniques like calligraphy, haiku poetry and koi fish kites.

In August, Collier will teach the “Magic Carpet” class for kids aged 4 to 6 years, in which they will study the art of Ghana, India and Mexico, as well as an “Underwater Adventure” class for 6 to 11 year-old students that will teach them to create art based on nautical myths and fables.

The chance for a positive artistic experience doesn’t have to be a distant dream for river ward students.

Birmingham said there are many opportunities for the city’s kids to get involved.

Woodmere conducts an educational outreach program in which teaching artists like Collier visit Philly classrooms to demonstrate and teach art programs.

Woodmere also brings students to the museum to view and discuss the art on display. Birmingham said Woodmere has worked with 50 to 60 schools per year.

“We are always looking for new schools to work with,” she said, adding that if any school wants to be a part of the outreach program, administration staff can simply contact the museum.

Additionally, Woodmere hosts a children’s gallery with work on exhibit from the students of many different schools, and any city school can contact the museum to have its students’ work on display.

She said that Woodmere also buses students to the museum free of charge, and offers scholarships for students who may not be able to afford classes. Collier’s “Underwater Adventure” class, for example, costs $135, including all materials, for the five-time class.

“We want to get art out there,” Birmingham said. “My goal is to make it accessible to all the kids in Philadelphia.”

Collier said she hopes kids from all backgrounds and locations can take part in her classes, and that she enjoys teaching younger students because of the fearlessness with which they approach art.

“They’re so eager,” she said. “The younger they can be involved in art, the better.”

To become a part of Woodmere Art Museum’s educational outreach program or student gallery, or to inquire about classes and scholarships, contact the museum at 215–247–0476 or visit www.woodmereartmusuem.org.

Star Managing Editor Mikala Jamison can be reached at 215–354–3113 or at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.