26th Annual ArtReach Exhibition
by Teresa Vazquez
Throughout 26 different schools and community centers across central Indiana, about 1,000 Indianapolis students participate in ArtReach every year. The program is the Indianapolis Art Center’s primary outreach program and through it, young people K-12 learn that if they make art, they are artists.
Using a variety of media, including painting, drawing, photography, ceramics, sculpture, and even non-traditional materials like flowers, sand, tennis shoes and toys, our young artists explore the processes of art-making. Parallel to making, Teaching Artists guide the young artists in a lot of viewing, thinking, discussing and even debating about the work of artists, those famous in art history as well as contemporary and local artists. Our students get to discuss important topics in aesthetics, what is art? What purposes does it serve? What is beautiful? Why is a work of art important? Who gets to decide?
Our students learn to talk about the work of their peers and about their own art too, with specificity, appreciation, encouragement and kindness.
Teaching Artists visit our ArtReach sites 12 times each semester during the fall and spring semesters, and in a wide array of summer programs in the months of June and July. With every visit, they bring their own talents in studio art, graphic design and art education, and share their infectious love of art with the lives of their students.
It is hard work being an ArtReach Teaching Artist: planning exciting lessons; acquiring high-quality materials; settling a roomful of kids with bellies full of snacks after-school; making art happen; keeping students accountable; encouraging finishing touches, coordinating cleaning up; taking stock of successes and opportunities for improvement. Teaching Artists are candid with me about the significant challenges our students face each day.
Many of the student’s families struggle to make livable wages and avoid hunger and homelessness. Some have first-hand stories of trauma or misfortune that bring local news headlines into sharp personal focus. Some could benefit from support systems that go beyond art or what schools or community centers are equipped to offer. But what art can offer is a way to access the fortifying experience of flow – where the energized focus on an art activity creates a feeling of well-being that takes one out of time & space.
Learning about and experiencing the expressive function of art helps our young artists depict stories, images and feelings that are important to them in a visual manner. It gives our young artists the opportunity to unburden themselves while they create something that’s authentic and new.
In just a few days, these young artists will enjoy the 26th Annual ArtReach Exhibition. Along with our partner schools and organizations, we will welcome over 300 young artists and their families, friends, teachers and other special guests. In addition to enjoying their professionally-mounted artworks in our Library and in the Clowes and Hurt Galleries, attendees will enjoy a catered dinner, a program featuring local performers and awards for this year’s Outstanding Artist at each of our sites.
For many, it will be a night of introduction to what the Indianapolis Art Center is and has to offer beyond their ArtReach experience. We truly hope that our young artists, their family members and friends will realize that making and enjoying art is truly for all of us, and that there is great satisfaction, enrichment (and of course, pride) in creating, sharing and gathering around art.