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Art in school, and on the go

Students at Alexander Adaire Elementary School check out and show off their work last Friday as part of the Portside Arts Center Mobile Arts Initiative. COURTESY OF PORTSIDE

With spring around the corner, the Portside Arts Center is more active than ever. One ongoing project is the Mobile Arts Initiative, which brings Portside arts instructors directly into schools. Next, the center hopes to take its instruction on the go in a 40-foot long bus.

Kim Creighton said the Portside Arts Center is, to a child’s eyes, like a candy store.

Eye candy, that is.

“When the kids come here, they freak out because there’s so much [material]. They’re so excited, they’re beside themselves,” said Creighton, founding director of Portside Arts Center.

With that in mind, Portside decided to bring the excitement directly to the kids.

In 2010–2011, Portside began its first Mobile Arts Initiative Program at Alexander Adaire Elementary, 1300 E. Palmer St. That program initially provided two arts classes and one music class for more than 40 students, who attended after-school classes twice per week at the school. Portside staff instructors were invited back for the 2011–2012 school year, during which it held a mural arts program for 6th- and 8th-grade students.

Creighton said Adarie’s student council came up with the theme of “diversity” for its mural, which now hangs in the school hallway.

Last Friday, Portside wrapped up its latest Mobile Arts installment with a showing of students’ work at Adaire. The next school Portside will visit is Mother of Divine Grace, 2612 E. Monmouth St.

Now, the Portside Arts Center, 2531 E. Lehigh Ave., continues to implement arts-focused programs throughout the River Wards.

This year, Portside received support from State Rep. John Taylor (R-177th dist.) through the Impact Services Corporation, which allowed the center to reach out to six local schools with 20 arts classes.

And though the in-school programs have been wildly successful, Creighton said students are much more excited about being in the center itself than in their respective schools.

“When we go to the schools, it’s not really stimulating. They get so much more excited in Portside, when we get them out of their schools,” she said.

To that end, Portside hopes to continue its Mobile Arts Initiative in the 2013–2014 school year with the help of a converted 40-foot donated bus that will serve 15 schools in the greater Kensington, Port Richmond and Fishtown areas.

The converted bus, Creighton said, would serve as a mobile arts classroom in order to bring students outside the walls of their schools. The bus will park outside the school, and won’t move while students are inside. Portside is advertising it as a “mini-field trip.” The bus will be able to accommodate 20 students at a time. With its significant storage space, the proposed bus will help alleviate overcrowding and storage issues inherent in the current format of the Mobile Arts Initiative.

Creighton said that the result of the Mobile Arts Initiative is plain and simple enthusiasm.

“It makes kids want to go to school,” she said. “Parents say to us, ‘My kid loves to go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays,’ kids’ grades are getting better,” she said.

Portside has also seen an increased membership since the implementation of the Mobile Arts Initiative. Since the program is endorsed, essentially, by the schools it visits, Creighton said, parents feel good about letting their kids participate. Portside also offers scholarships to its programs worth hundreds of dollars.

On March 21, Portside was also involved in an art exhibition at Memphis Street Academy Charter School, 2950 Memphis St. The exhibition featured a selection of paintings, drawings, photography and mixed media by Philadelphia artists. It was co-curated by Jenna Wilchinsky, assistant director of Portside Arts Center, and Amber Ganzelli, an art teacher at Tacony Academy Charter School, 1300 Ruan St.

Wilchinsky said of Friday’s showing at Adaire, “The parents who attended the event were so proud of their children and can not wait to have the program back next year. All of the children from grades 1–4 were so amazed at all of their peers’ beautiful art work as their teachers lead them around the exhibit.”

Portside also took on a supervised mentorship with two students from the El Centro de Estudiantes school. For the past six months, Chrystal Cruz and Jaylisa Perez worked alongside Portside staff on their senor project, “How to Curate an Art Showing.”

Of Portside’s work, Creighton said, “It’s not just art, it’s not just fun and using crayons and paint. Our mission is to build the self-confidence in kids, to have them say, ‘I did this.’”

Portside is seeking corporate sponsors to fund the Mobile Arts Initiative bus for one year.The project going forward will be funding by grants, fundraising, corporate sponsorship, an upcoming kickstarter.com campaign, and community donations. Visit the Portside Arts Center online at www.portsideartscenter.org, or call 215–427–1514.

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

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