Students get to create at Art & Life

  • Artist Pat Wild of Gilford shows students examples of recurring art projects at the Youth Art Program at Kimball Jenkins on Thursday, March 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A student works on recurring art objects project at the Youth Art Program at Kimball Jenkins on Thursday, March 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Brushes at the Kimball Jenkins art school. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Artist Mary Mead of Warner works on recurring art objects with a student at the Youth Art Program at Kimball Jenkins on Thursday, March 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Artist Mary Mead of Warner shows how to do an project on repeating objects at the Youth Art Program at Kimball Jenkins on Thursday, March 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Artist Mary Mead of Warner shows some of the artwork produced by students at the Youth Art Program at Kimball Jenkins in Concord on March 28, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/1/2019 9:33:28 AM

It’s not easy being a teenager these days, and Rob Fried saw that. At the same time, as the then executive director of the Kimball Jenkins Estate, Fried was looking for ways to expand the reach of the Kimball Jenkins School of Art to new populations.

So Fried created a new program called Art & Life. The purpose was to give high school students a comfortable space to explore creativity that was outside of the traditional structures of the classroom environment. Thanks to grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the program got off the ground in the fall of 2017.

“It really came from my interest in teenagers, particularly teenagers who are not academic or sports stars,” Fried said. “The kids who may need some confidence and may need some social networking.”

It was held once a week for two hours, facilitated by local artist Mary Mead in partnership with the 21st Century Community Learning Center at Concord High, where students could come and do an art project. The grant allowed the program to be offered for free with transportation provided by the Boys & Girls Club of Central New Hampshire each week from Concord High School.

Mead was brought in for the artist side of things, as she had previously taught at Kimball Jenkins and Colby Sawyer College.

There’s the art part of it of course, where the students get to create, but it’s the life aspect that really made Fried want to get the program off the ground.

Mead said they use the projects to get the students to talk about some of the challenges they face at school. It also affords yet another opportunity to do something both academically beneficial and fun outside of school.

“Getting students to do something different and work on their creative skills,” Mead said. “Within the confines of our projects, we encourage them to run with it.”

Fried and Mead both considered the first year a success, as Art & Life had anywhere from five to 11 students each week, with about half coming to every program and a total approaching 20 for the year.

“What we were pleasantly surprised with was how diverse the students were,” Mead said. “It was well representative on the current population of Concord.”

It’s not designed as a drop in session, but with any number of conflicts that come with being of the high school age, students are allowed to go when it works for them. The whole point is to give them a stress-free environment and relieve some of those daily pressures.

“It’s such a great opportunity, Mead said. “It’s just a place to come and explore.”

Currently the program is in its second go around, beginning in January, and while there are students who showing up each Thursday session with Mead and fellow facilitator and New Hampshire artist Pat Wild, the hope is for more to get involved and take advantage of the opportunity. So far, there have been some weeks when two students show up, while others have seen upwards of 10.

“We’d really like to see more kids come,” said Ryan Linehan, managing director at Kimball Jenkins. “It’s growing slowly, and the nice thing is that it’s a free program.”

Mead and Wild have extensive backgrounds in both the creation and teaching needed for a program like this, and offer weekly projects from collages to watercolor and acrylic painting. They’ve facilitated colored pencil drawings and even meditated with students pulling an image from that restful time and going through the process of sketching it out.

“It’s a great way to introduce them to new media and new ways of looking at it in a relaxed atmosphere,” Fried said.

The students share their work and both Mead and Wild, as well as others in the program, offer gentle critiques. And there’s always pizza to munch on.

This year’s program is funded by the Rock On Foundation and the Rolfe & Rumford Fund, totaling $7,500 to cover instructors’ wages, materials, and free bus transportation.

The program runs through the end of May and students are eligible to sign up at any time. Sue Farrelly, director of 21C at Concord High, said Concord students may sign up through 21C, or by emailing Farrelly at sfarrelly@sau8.org. The Boys & Girls Club picks students up immediately after school on Thursday afternoons. The 21C late bus picks students up at Kimball Jenkins at 5 p.m. and brings them back to 21C at Concord High to use the late buses or meet a ride.

So far the program has only seen homeschool students and ones from the Concord School District. It’s geared toward freshmen and sophomores, but open to any high school student in the area.

“The program has an amazing impact on kids. The challenge is getting them to make the trek to Kimball Jenkins to try it. Spending some time each week, out of the school environment, in a real art studio, making art with their hands and talking with peers and artists in a nonjudgmental way, can really change a teen’s outlook on life. It gives them strength, courage, and a healthy new perspective to go back and make the best of their school and home life,” said Althea Barton, director of outreach and development at Kimball Jenkins, who wrote the grants for the program.

And there are only two rules: no cell phones and be kind.

For more about the program, visit kimballjenkins.com/teen-art-life.




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