Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Giving it my best shot"

Our first few weeks of the Youth Art Courses have been crazy as usual and a reminder to me why I love my work at Ayuda. I am really energized by having the kids around again and working with my great teachers to provide a fun creative space for our kids. I wanted to share a story from our first week...

Shawn is a one of our daily visitors here at Ayuda. He comes for lots of reasons: he's a faithful boyscout, he loves to hang out with Ryan, Ayuda's Director of Development, and shred things for him, and he loves to draw. He has been showing me his drawings for quite sometime. I encouraged him to join our Beginning Drawing class this fall. At first, Shawn was really enthused about joining the class. But as we got closer to the first day of class, he seemed to seem less and less interested in the class. I was unsure what the issue was for him as to why he was losing interest in joining. Finally, I asked him pointedly, "Shawn, today is the first class. Do you want to be in the class?" He looked at me with a deer-in-headlights look and said, "Yeah, I do, but my mom's got lots of bills so I don't think I will be able to do it." The enrollment fee for the youth art courses is $50 for 10 weeks (about 60% less than other art training available for our youth). I told him that I had some scholarships available for youth and that he may qualify. I told him that he could try out the first class to see if he liked it and I would go and talk with his mom. He still seemed very unsure, but he went downstairs to join the other 5 students and I walked across the street to chat with his mom.

Shawn's mom and I have met and talked some in the past. She knew that I do art stuff. I found that she knew about the class and about the $50 and she said there was no way. She was wearing scrubs and had just gotten home from work. As we sat there and talked for a while, 2 teenagers walked in and out of the house, one 18 and one 15. Joining us in our visit was a 2 year old cutie wearing his jammies. All of these kids were hers: 5 kids in all ranging from age 2-18. And it is just her providing for them. No wonder $50 for an art class seemed a little "luxurious" for one child when it seemed that every dollar she made at her job would be spent on food, rent, and clothes for the kids before she even brought home her paycheck. I sat there thinking about my own paychecks and how I just keep them all. All for me. How does she do it? Eventually, I assured her that I did have people who wanted to sponsor youth to take these art classes and that I could grant him a scholarship. She was still hesitant at first, but eventually, she relaxed and smiled; she said she knew that Shawn drew all the time and he really wanted to join. She agreed to fill out the paperwork. As I left the porch, she said, "Make sure you tell Shawn that I signed him up!"

Drawing class ended; kids trickled upstairs all trying to show my what they drew all at the same time. I pulled Shawn aside and said I had something to tell him. Again, that sick look! I said, "I just wanted you to know that your mom signed you up for the class." He literally erupted. His grin was huge; he yelled out; he started spinning in the chair! He kept saying, "She did? She did? Really? I can stay in the class?" It was really fun... and talking with his mom later in the week, she mentioned how happy he was to be in the class.

And that's just one. We have 19 other great kids, each with their own story, enrolled in the fall courses. One of the things that I go over with the kids in our classes in the beginning is the commitment that we all make to take artistic risks. I love to ask the kids what they think that means... "Doing something dangerous." "Drawing a gun." One of the photography students suggested that it meant "giving it my best shot." Yes. I ask all the kids to commit to doing that while they are in our program and I tell each of them that it is my commitment to them to take the risks involved, artistic and other, in shaping Ayuda's Community Arts Program. We're giving it our best shot.

1 comment:

Jessie said...

I love that bit on risk - to give it our best shot - it's really vulnerable to do this! I see it in a new way when I read about Shawn's story. (His drawing looks like a Matisse!)
I love you; I love seeing the faces and hearing the voices of your work,