Making art that matters

NLArts campers celebrate Martin Luther King Day by painting buttons for other children

NLArts community arts program director Natasha Mell-Taylor helps campers Sanaya Terry, Eli Rudasil and Zori Amaya paint buttons and labels during the One Day MLK Camp. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

While some students may have celebrated school being closed last Monday, a handful of youth in Northern Liberties took advantage of their day off to do something meaningful.
Eight children ages 4 to 8 participated in the NLArts One Day MLK Camp and, while it was a lot of fun, it wasn’t all games.
The day commenced with the children engaging in conversation with NLArts community arts program director Natasha Mell-Taylor about the history and significance of the holiday.
The camp has been held intermittently during the organization’s 10-year existence, and the organization “generally runs a program every time school is closed, but it made sense to do something valuable with [the children’s] time given the day,” according to Mell-Taylor.
After a brief history lesson, the campers had the opportunity to put their artistic skills to work.
Collectively, the eight children painted about 60 air-dry and sculpey clay buttons and 60 watercolor paper labels with the words “You Matter” written on them.

Clay buttons and watercolor paper labels with the phrase, “You Matter,” will be placed in care packages for foster children. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

The purpose of the art project was “to make a keepsake memento to brighten someone’s day.”
The buttons and labels were strung together and will be placed in care packages for foster children with Turning Points for Children.
The camp was held at the Northern Liberties Community Center, the headquarters for NLArts and founder Monika Kriedie works at Turning Point.
Camper Sanaya Terry, 4, painted buttons pink, purple and blue.
“It was fun because it is going to someone who might not have toys,” she said.
Anna Feiro, 5, agreed.
“It was really fun because they’re for other kids,” she said. “We did it because it was nice and what we thought Martin Luther King would like.”
Mell-Taylor stressed how making presents for others is just as important as receiving them.
“While the kids make things for their parents at school all the time, we told the kids making the buttons for other children was a present in itself for their parents.”
After completing the art project, the children burned off some energy at the adjacent playground before going to Eastern State Penitentiary to listen to speeches about Martin Luther King Jr.
Between art and history, the camp was meant to make local children aware.
“We just wanted to tie MLK Day into how people we know might not have what we have,” Mell-Taylor said. “And, the idea that everyone matters on the day that it means the most.”