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It was a sunny day on South Boulevard near the Bethel AME Church as three pop-up tailgating-style tents were on the field across from the church.
There were children wearing paint-splattered aprons walking back and forth from pots of paint to their canvases tacked up on a wall.
A boy who looked to be 11 or 12 was learning how to paint in a way that won't run. He learned not to take too much paint on his brush. We watched as he also learned that while the paint is wet, he can mix two colors to make a different color.
Under another tent, boys scrambled for LEGO pieces and built hot rods, planes, and things you can't really name, just fantastic shapes of something! In a third area, kids used wire, beads, and colorful shades of duct tape to make a sculpture.
"This is our 4th year of the [Neighborhood Arts] program. It is extremely successful," said Lucy Perera, coordinator of school and community programs with the LSU Museum of Art. "So far this year, our attendance is up. We're averaging about 150 kids a week at four different sites. Usually about 40 kids turn out each day and then occasionally we'll have a big group of 100 who will come out."
Children do all the activities for free. The idea is to expose them and to help them use their imaginations. Perera said it has to be accessible. That's why the tents and mobility are necessary.
"The whole concept behind Neighborhood Arts was bringing art out into areas where there are children who are not involved in summer activities. The thought is that we just kind of show up with our tents and kids can plan that every Friday or Thursday, depending on where we are, we'll be out," Perera said. "So I think there are kids who think there is sort of a regular activity that they can attend and that they don't have to worry about having a parent drive them to it or worry about cost and so they can just sort of come and go as they please. It's sort of an old-fashioned community activity."
Teenagers moved among the children with some showing kids how to make their art projects.
"We hire about 10 teenagers who are our instructors," Perera said. "So we pick 10 students, we work with the mayor's summer youth employment program called the 'Love Our Community' who helps fund the positions, and we basically train 10 local teenagers to be our art instructors. So it's basically giving them kind of meaningful work and also be involved with giving back to their community."
Kyriel Brown helped children in the Gardere area learn patterning with paints and multi-colored papers.
"As the program continues through July, we will hire an additional four teens from this summer's 'Love our Community' program to assist us with the last month of the program. The program is 100 percent funded from private donations from gr ants and individuals," Perera said.
The project takes place on the following dates and times:
- Scotlandville: Tuesdays 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church, 9450 Scenic Hwy.
- Gardere: Wednesdays 9 - 11 a.m. at Gardere Initiative, 8435 Ned Ave.
- Eden Park: Thursdays 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. at The Village Resource Center, 765 N. Acadian Thwy.
- Old South Baton Rouge: Thursdays, 5 - 8 p.m. at BREC Expressway Park, 935 S. 11th St.
- Melrose East: Thursdays 5 - 8 p.m., BREC Saia Park, 833 N. Donmoor Ave.
- Old South Baton Rouge: Fridays, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m., Bethel AME Church Field, 1358 South Blvd.