Art has always been a part of my life, in one way or another. Whether it was taking art classes as a child, drawing for fun, watching my mom draw, or going to a museum to see masterpieces, it seemed like a natural part of life. However, I now understand, more fully than before, that not everyone has my experience. When DeVries began a partnership with ProjectArt, a non-profit organization focused on providing arts education to children who normally would not be exposed to it in school, I was immediately drawn to the word Art and wanted to hear more. As part of our partnership, employees are able to volunteer at a ProjectArt classroom at a NYC Public Library, where 10-week courses are conducted. This opportunity excited me and piqued my curiosity as it provided a completely fresh activity where I would be in a classroom environment, interacting with kids and seeing how arts education is put into practice.
Following this desire, a co-worker and I were the first pair to venture out to the Steinway Library in Astoria, Queens for our chance to volunteer. As we arrived early, we had a chance to see the kids - ages 8 to12 - come into the classroom, some on their own and some led by a parent or sibling. It was really great to see their family members supportive of the classes and wanting the kids to be there. The topic of the class was Blind Contour Drawing, which meant the kids were to keep their eyes on the object that they are drawing as opposed to their paper. In our case, one group was to draw a globe of the earth and another group a deflated beach ball (yes, there were complaints about the situation!). To keep the kids from looking at their work, the teacher told them to hold their pencils in one hand and a piece of paper covering the pencil and drawing in the other. Within a few minutes, one of the kids found an easier way – just put a hole through the paper with the pencil and draw that way! The teacher said that this assignment was previously given to a college class and that they did not come up with this idea. This goes to show that you never know where creativity can come from, so it is a good idea to pay attention at unexpected places. After distributing the supplies and helping the kids with drawing tips, we eventually joined in on the fun and created our own masterpieces. It felt good to be a part of the class and engaged in the kids’ experience. After finishing the drawings, everyone’s art was put on display on the classroom bench and each work was discussed to see what the students saw in each other’s drawings. It was very interesting to see and hear how they used creativity to both create their own work and perceive and interpret each other’s drawings.
After class, we decided that as we were in Astoria, a neighborhood known for its Greek cuisine, we would like to stop for dinner before heading back. We received a recommendation from a local shopkeeper for a restaurant called Taverna Kyclades, which we were excited to try out. Upon our arrival, we were each given an unexpected glass of wine by a group of guys who were waiting to be seated and had two extra glasses. After this wonderful start, we sat down and ordered Chicken Kebobs with Lemon Potatoes. As we were sitting, we noted that the place was full of people and had a great atmosphere where locals and visitors gathered for dinner. Our food was absolutely delicious and we even took some of it home. Not to mention, we got free(!) dessert.
Overall, our volunteer experience interacting with the local kids and our dinner in the midst of this bustling and lively neighborhood really let us live the place for the afternoon as if we were a part of it. We truly enjoyed our outing and we are hoping more employees are able to experience this first-hand!