"Nature In Our Own Backyards"
For ten weeks this summer, 13 children from a local public housing community met with environmental artist Joanne Miller to learn about photography. Joanne supplied cameras for each child and together they embarked on a larger journey of discovery--about art, about nature, about themselves.
"This program was really important to our kids," says Alice Entrekin, Director of the Family Resource Center in this community. "When the kids were at the Center working with Joanne, they got a lot of positive attention and support, something that is sometimes lacking at home." The arts can help children build a positive self-image which is key to preventing gang-involvement and truancy. And, having a caring adult offering positive support can make all the difference in a child's life.
"The arts offer powerful experiences to children," says Suzan Jenkins, CEO of Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County.
"Over twenty years of research confirms that children who participate in the arts generally have better self-esteem and score higher on academic achievement tests. We know that all children, but especially at-risk children, benefit from arts experiences such as this summer program at Washington Square and that is why AHCMC continues to facilitate and support these important programs."
Once a week, Alice and Joanne piled all the kids into a van. They visited Roosevelt Island, Butler's Orchard, Brookside Gardens and Great Falls. Confined by poverty, many of the children had never been to a farm or a national park. Their wonder at the wildness of rivers, fragility of frogs and beauty of flowers is evident in the stunning photographs they took.
"Viewing and creating beauty in nature," says artist Joanne Miller, "helps children develop an understanding that they are an important part of the world around them. When looking through the eye of a camera, the connection is that much greater."
Children living in poverty are all too often prevented from flourishing and succeeding in life by both what is lacking in their environment, and the dangers abundant in that environment. Unfortunately, sometimes children are exposed to drugs, domestic violence and gang activity within their communities. "We try to keep the kids safe," says Alice, "by keeping them busy at the Center. When they're here I know they're safe."
"Programs like PhotoKids open up a whole new world to children and are an important part of their education. Lower-income families may not always have the resources or means to bring this opportunity to their children. We are extremely grateful to the Arts & Humanities Council and the Montgomery County Employee Giving Campaign for making this program possible." - Annie B. Alston Former Housing Opportunities Commission's Executive Director
This program and exhibitions were made possible by the generosity of the MONTGOMERY COUNTY EMPLOYEE GIVING CAMPAIGN. Donations were matched with a grant from SOVEREIGN BANK FOUNDATION, which supports after-school and summer programs that enrich educational opportunities for children in low- and moderate-income communities. Thank you!