Students create art for 'People and Places in Your Neighborhood' show

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Wed., May. 25, 2011
Nathan Hale fifth-grader Stonewall works on the mural of his twin cousins, created for the June 9 opening of the East Side Public Safety Youth Center. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Nathan Hale fifth-grader Stonewall works on the mural of his twin cousins, created for the June 9 opening of the East Side Public Safety Youth Center. Photos by Martha Marteney.

In preparation for the opening of the East Side Youth Public Safety Building, selected students from Nathan Hale Elementary School partnered with Manchester Community College art students to create special pieces using the theme “People and Places in Your Neighborhood.” The artwork will be featured at the June 9 grand opening of the former Spruce Street Firehouse, located at 153 Spruce St.

As explained by Chris Silver, director of the Office of Neighborhoods and Families, the art partnership established an authentic youth engagement project by bringing together several elements for this community service project. From an educational perspective, the partnership gave the elementary school students an opportunity to further their interest in art and to experience the MCC environment. The students are given the opportunity to auction their work, with the proceeds benefiting local organizations. “I like to think that this project is the first of many that will connect the students with community programs,” said Silver.

Twenty-two Nathan Hale students in grades three through five spent four afternoons with MCC Art Club advisor Susan Classen-Sullivan and several MCC art students. The partnership was coordinated by AmeriCorps liaison Daniel Nieman. “It was an incredible collaboration,” said Classen-Sullivan. “I’ve never been involved in a collaborative project that’s gone so well.” It was the first time for many of the MCC students working with the younger students.

Fifth-grader Stonewall was invited by his art teacher to participate in the program as a way to be exposed to different art projects. He created a mural of his 3-year-old twin cousins.

“My teacher keeps catching me drawing,” explained fourth-grader Alystika.

“When I go to art class,” said fourth-grader Danilly, “I do my best work.”

“I think I'm going to auction it off,” said fifth-grader Kendal about the clay mask he made. He said he may decide to keep the family portrait he made for the mural project. By painting people the children know, it made it more important that the pieces came out well.

The students came away from the art project with new insights. “It's important to use lots of texture and detail in your art,” said fifth- grader Louie, “so that other people can see it.” He chose to do a portrait of his mother, “because I thought she would be fun to draw. It was my first time, and I thought it would be nice.”

“It was weird when I first came here [to MCC] because I'd never been here and didn't know anyone,” noted Kendal. “Now, it's cool to come here and paint.”

Third-grader Jiyan learned to make masks, and will be auctioning off his lion mask. “You don't need to go fast,” explained Jiyan, who learned to focus while working. “You need to go slow so you don't mess up.”

According to Classen-Sullivan, the MCC students were invigorated by the children's spontaneity and enthusiasm. For MCC student Rachel Rubenbauer of Wethersfield, working with the children gave her an opportunity to think back to making clay masks when she was little.

The East Side Youth Public Safety Building, or Center for Community Development, as it is called by Silver, will be transformed for the night of the opening into an art gallery. Those who attend will be invited to create a tile mosaic in the new space by drawing a favorite place or person from the neighborhood. This program is sponsored by the Center for Student Learning.

In addition to the ribbon-cutting ceremony, the auctioning of the Nathan Hale artwork and the tile mosaic, the Manchester High School Jazz Combo will perform and light refreshments will be provided by Highland Park Market. The Spruce Street Firehouse Collection of photographs by Kelly Richardson will also be available for purchase on June 9. All proceeds from the sale of the Richardson photography will benefit Building Healthy Families Inc., a local non-profit charitable organization that provides free early childhood educational programs to both parents and their children. The Spruce Street Firehouse Collection can be viewed at the website

This will be the ribbon-cutting for the East Side Public Safety Youth Center, which is open to the public and free to attend. The event will run from 5:30 to 8 p.m. For more information, contact Chris Silver at 860-647-3089 or by e-mail at

Silver said the new community center will become the physical space for the Office of Neighborhoods and Families, as well as the Neighborhood Academy and a variety of neighborhood groups.

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