Building a Virtual Neighborhood Teaches Young People That Everybody Contributes to a Healthy Community

The completed community mural from the Saturday "Art Around the World" program at Inwood Public Library. 

CAW Teaching Artist Angel Thompson demonstrates how to make cutouts at the United Palace of Cultural Arts in Washington Heights.

We often say that Creative Art Works’ programs, “...build confidence, unlock a love of learning, and create profound connections between our young people and their communities.” But how do art and community intersect? Last Saturday, the young participants in our free art workshops at the Inwood Branch of The New York Public Library and the United Palace of Cultural Arts developed a deeper understanding of what it means to be part of a community by taking part in a collaborative art-making project. 

Our new curriculum, Art Around the World, invites students to explore representative works of art from different cultures. Through hands-on projects and related readings, students develop visual literacy and deepen connections between themselves and the world around them.

While each unit works as a stand-alone project, the lessons in the program are designed to build upon each other. In the first two classes, students created their own personal pieces of art, first producing self-portraits, and then their own family portraits. But the third project was different. Just as healthy communities grow from many people working together, the community mural was a collaboration in which each student contributed an image from their neighborhood that was incorporated into a single finished work. 

Paticipants were invited to brainstorm words that describe a healthy community, such as “love,” “family,” “friends,” and “school.” They then wrote out these words and decorated the letters. Next, the young artists illustrated people, places and things that could be seen (or imagined) around their neighborhood. These included buildings, cars, playground equipment, trees, baby strollers, street signs, and assorted animals and people. Finally, all these individual drawings were assembled into one giant illustration that, when combined, expressed the values and ideals of the classroom community and an expansive landscape of the surrounding neighborhood. By creating a virtual community, students came to understand that everybody has a part to play in creating an actual community. 

Classes continue through the winter. Please download and post a flyer for Inwood Public Library in ENGLISH HERE and in SPANISH HERE. For United Palace of Cultural Arts, you can download the flyer in ENGLISH HERE and in SPANISH HERE.

You can read more about this and other Creative Art Works Programs in our most recent newsletter HERE.

Young articipants discuss the people, pets. buildings, vehicles, trees, cars and other sights that make up their community. The free Saturday programs are appropriate for children in grades 3-5.

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