Strengthening family bonds and showcasing the talents of urban communities is the focus of an arts program that has made its way into Wilmington, NC. Going into year two at Robert S. Jervay Place, off Dawson Street near downtown Wilmington, FACT (Families are Artists, Creators & Teachers) was created by the Neighborhood Associates Corp. in DC “to advance resident-led, urban neighborhoods that are safe, green, healthy, prosperous, and civically engaged” (fact2genart.org).
Wilmington is one of three cities chosen to be a part of the initiative.
Currently leading FACT arts classes every Saturday morning is local paper artist Fritzi Huber—who works at Cameron Art Museum and is also a teaching artist at DREAMS of Wilmington, a local nonprofit partnering with FACT. The main stipulation of the program: One parent and one child must show up together for a three-hour class every Saturday for three months. Huber’s rubric allows families an opportunity to learn everything from painting and photography to writing and illustration. It culminates in understanding the business side of art: After two three-month sessions, all participants put together an art exhibit to showcase their works to their community.
“It’s open to all of the Public Housing Authority families, along with those from surrounding communities,” Huber says. “This can be a parent and child, grandma and kids, dad and child, any and all family combinations. . . . It is specifically designed for family interaction.”
With funding from William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, all supplies are provided free of charge to students. In its first year, 2017, six students signed up for FACT. However, Marquita Marshburn, who facilitates the program at Jervay, has pre-registered five families for the new year, which kicks off October 27. Huber has scripted the course to follow the program’s ideals: to help empower voices through creative output, bond families and encourage their positive growth with two-generation learning practices, as well as create “stories” of how they want their futures to look.
“During one storytelling session, two daughters discovered their mother was a really good writer and inventive storyteller beyond what they had previously known,” Huber says. “The love they shared with each other over this discovery made them all want to be more expressive, sharing, and closer than they had already been.”
Marshburn and her daughters participated in the first year of classes. The inspiration it gave them as a family is something the mom treasures. “They went from being single minded and shy to outgoing and very enthusiastic little personalities,” she describes. “I enjoyed these moments personally because it gave me one-on-one time with my two oldest daughters and also fixed some of our gaps that could have frayed.”
Huber provides prompts during each class to help guide the creative process. For instance, week one and two focus on relationship strengthening, wherein students illustrate how to build mutual trust via drawing, photography and painting. Topics may showcase past memories or how a family connects within their neighborhoods. Another week focuses on communication building, with short stories and poetry highlighting community aspirations. The last two sessions focus on the art exhibition for students to celebrate their achievements.
“This is a very scripted course, specifically in sequencing—baby steps growing into giant steps in a subtle progression,” Huber says.
After course completion, participants take home their art kits to continue the creation and inspiration beyond Jervay’s walls. “It is a wonderful space, with good management, safe parking, and good light in our space,” Huber praises. More so, it illuminates because of its students. And many of them are asking to return.
“There has been a request from the year-one participants to be able to join in with our new group for enrichment sessions,” Huber adds. Because in the end, a family who creates together builds communities together—at least that’s the hope.
A launch party for the new year will take place on October 20 at Jervay, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Folks can come and meet the teaching artist as well as have a snack and enjoy a preview of the classes.
“There is no segregation on a predominant set of individuals,” Marshburn adds. “FACT welcomes its program to any family who is interested and categorize their surroundings associated with low-income development sites. I’d love to see it mature and branch into other ventures of our diverse areas.”
For more information on FACT, follow www.facebook.com/pg/FACT2genART.