Young Artists Display Innate Talent at Exhibit
On a recent Friday night, all of the great masters of art turned out in a display in the lobby of the CNN News Building in Northeast. Picasso, Van Gogh and Warhol were just a few of the famous names present, despite the fact that they're all long gone.
The works propped on easels and hung from clothes lines were not the multi-million dollar pieces that regularly break the bank at auction at Sotheby's, but for the purchasers of the works, they were just as valuable.
The Perry After-School Program students, who attend one of the Perry Center's community-based programs were the actual artists of the works, which replicated those of the master artists in paintings, sculptures, comic books and installation pieces [such as the three large colorful cardboard "Brillo" boxes in the spirit of Andy Warhol].
"Night at the Museum" is an annual event staged to showcase the talents of the students, who range in age from 5 to 18-years-old, and their study of art works under artist Alicia Cosnahan, with materials and support donated by Albus Cavus, an organization that serves communities through public art and collaborating creatively with communities on the use of public space.
James Jordan, 10, who is in 5th grade contributed Van Gogh's "Starry Night," and happened to be one of the early sell outs among the 20 or so pieces available for a "name your price" sale.
"I liked his style, brush strokes and colors," James said confidently. "In art class, we study different artists and their history," he added.
Nine-year-old Zakiya Wells, who is in 4th grade, used Van Gogh for the initial inspiration for her "Colorful Flowers," but liberally added her own touch. "It took me three days to paint this work," Zakiya said. "I love painting because my father is a painter. I have been painting since I was two or three, and I have been doing compositions for a year," she said, sounding far more mature than her years would indicate.
Nine–year-old Caleb Poole preferred the pop art style of Warhol, displaying his take on Warhol's famous shoe paintings. "I liked Andy Warhol because he did things you see every day. I learned about his life, and I painted and did a background. I did the shoe out of my imagination," he said.
The work in question was firmly tucked under the arm of a purchaser, Donna Poole, who also happened to be his mother and the wife of Perry After-School Program director Corey Poole.
"I want to be an artist," he said. "But I also want to be a basketball player, a golfer and a movie director. I can handle multiple professions. But my mom bought the 'Purple Shoe' for $50.00."
Both of Donna Poole's young sons attend Perry After-School Program, which starts at 3 p.m. and exposes the students to not only art classes, but also computer lab and "Peace," a conflict-prevention program to aid children in avoiding future conflicts that have cost the lives and well-being of children, not only in the community surrounding the Perry School, but across the nation.
"It builds cultural enrichment for both children in the program," said Donna Poole, 42, a resident of Oxon Hill, Md. "They get computer skills, art studies, field trips. You name it, they have it. My kids do volunteer work also. It is a one-stop shop and is underestimated in the community."
The Perry School Community Services Center is located on M Street, NW near North Capitol Street and serves the economically disadvantaged community of Sursum Corda, which frequently makes the news for violence and crime. The school opened 11 years ago in the empty shell of the Perry School, and also features a summer camp when the school year ends. The community surrounding the Perry School raised more than $5.6 million to rehabilitate the abandoned school and convert the historic building into the thriving community center it is today.
The Perry School's mission is a comprehensive, collaborative and integrated approach to social services, economic enhancement and poverty eradication and its causes and consequences. The center aims to create a positive outcome for children, adults and families through specific service programs.
Art aficionado Ilyssa Parker was pleased with her purchases, a grand total of $65.00 worth of art, which she plans to give as gifts. "I think I will keep the Picasso, though," she said after purchasing James' painting with its rich tones of blue. Apart from the fact that she is on the board of The Perry School, Parker would have purchased the art anyway, she said.
When the 90-minute exhibit, complete with refreshments from the neighboring Station Café, was over, the children reluctantly packed up the unsold art which went back to the school. But, as one enthusiastic parent and employee of The Perry School, Tamikia Wims pointed out, the works can still be purchased from the school. Profits are split 50/50 between the students and the school. Donations are also accepted for youth development programs.
The Perry School is located at 128 M Street in Northwest. For more information, visit the school's website, www.Perryschool.org.