'See Where I Am': IS183 pilots creative expression program at The Hub

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Photo Gallery | IS183 Art School offers program at The Hub in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD — The youth artwork from a new program partnership pilot will be seen this fall and winter in the storefronts of North Street and the gallery of the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.

As IS183 Art School of the Berkshires looked to expand its community offerings and as The Hub, the city's downtown youth center, looked for long-term permanent program partners, administrators from both organizations found an easy fit in working together.

IS183 faculty artist Karen Cellini helped develop and is currently implementing a new after-school multimedia arts program based at The Hub, called "See Where I Am."

The program, said IS183 Executive Director Hope Sullivan and Associate Program Director Lucie Castaldo, is based on its Learning Through the Arts model, but with more of a focus on helping middle school students develop conflict-resolution skills versus academic skills by engaging them in art projects.

"The difference with this program is that instead of a school, it's set in a community-based organization, and the goals are not so much academic goals, but developing social-behavioral roles, though that's certainly in our school programs too," Sullivan said.

Early on in the program, which began meeting in late September, student worked on their art project of the day on paper taped to the walls of The Hub's glass-windowed storefront at 243 North St.

"I love that they're in the windows," said Castaldo. "It means people get to see positive actions with teenagers, which isn't always seen."

The 10-week program meets from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and is open to any youth or teenager at no cost. Each week, Cellini introduces a new art project, sometimes bringing in a guest artist. Each activity, like documentary photography and journaling, prompts participants to reflect on their own goals, values and interests.

More recently, Cellini brought in a friend of hers and a fellow artist, Maranda Simonet, who led a group of middle school girls through a project. Simonet asked them to each outline their own handprint in graphite or charcoal, and then create a personal pattern to decorate the handprint.

Asked what she hopes her students get out of the program, Cellini said, "I'm hoping they get connected with themselves ... and I hope [these projects] let them have agency over The Hub."

Robert "Rob" Jefferson, who this fall has taken over the role as director for The Hub said he fully supports this and any community partnerships that empower the youths at the center to have a voice and a positive role in the community. "It's not often these guys get to express themselves and be heard," he said.

The students' work is slated to be showcased in December's First Fridays Artswalk and also the 10 x 10 Upstreet Arts Festival in February.

Jacqueline LeClair, 12, and Haley Amaral, 13, said they've been coming to The Hub since it opened just to have a place to hang out after school. Even though, they said, some of the kids they know have stopped coming to the center, they decided to give the art program a go. "I want to see The Hub stay open," LeClair said.

Jefferson said he does too, and wants to work with other agencies with a mission akin to IS183's outreach initiative to offer more structured and sustainable programing to support young people and their interests.

"Stuff like this, it's good. It helps kids grow," he said. "Expression is everything when you're thinking about what do you have for a future."


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