Art in Azusa

by Jody Godoy '05

On Saturday, November 15, children from group and foster homes throughout Los Angeles County came to APU for a day of learning and expression called "Art in Azusa."

After registration and a snack, the children were welcomed and given an orientation of the day's activities. They learned about the color wheel, and then experimented with nature drawing from observation. They also learned how to make mosaics, and created paper mosaics on the front of journals that they kept for writing and drawing. Other projects consisted of making miniature prints, designing their own puzzles, and designing a poster for a national contest. At the end of the event, all the children received bags filled with art supplies, a teddy bear, and their choice of four art books.

The event was made possible by the cooperation of APU, the Department of Children and Family Services, the Los Angeles County Library, and organizations including Comfort for Court Kids and Reading is Fundamental. Penny Nelson, a transportation worker at Edelman Children's Court in Monterey Park, said the event "brings out the creativity in the kids. They learn they can actually do it, and it gives them a way to feel good about themselves."

Marcellous, age 9, and his cousin Shanice, age 10, who attended the event, said that art was among their favorite subjects in school. "Art is like science," said Shanice, who enjoys doing projects in both classes. Her favorite art project that day was the card she printed that read "I love you, Merry Christmas" for her mom.

And the kids weren't the only ones having a good time. Alumni Samuel Guerrero '03, who now teaches in Palm Desert, volunteered at Art in Azusa this year because he enjoyed it so much last year. "It's fun because these are the kind of kids I grew up with. Some of them definitely have the potential to be artists, it's just that they lack belief in themselves, they lack the encouragement. I work with kids who are very privileged, and I wanted to give these kids an opportunity, even if it's just for a day, to express themselves creatively," said Guerrero.

Those who put the event together sought lasting benefits for the children and teens participating. Gail McFarlane Sosa, director of the education initiative for the Department of Children and Family Services, said the goal was "to introduce foster-care adolescents to a university campus, and give them a chance to be exposed to art in a university setting. Many think that a university education means only math or science. This event enables students to participate in activities that promote free expression and gives them the means to continue doing so."