Arts & Smarts, Growing Artists and Problem Solvers

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“Don’t take a picture! I’m your boss!” he said, then realized it sounded harsh coming from a kid to an adult, particularly an adult who runs the place. He adjusted and softened his statement, “I’m the artist and you’re the photographer. You can document my art and show the pictures when I’m famous. But this art isn’t finished yet. I want you to take a picture when it’s done.”

A few days later, I was talking to the Arts & Smarts kids about my own sculptures. I talked about making my art from interesting found objects and hoping that my art will make people look differently at the things they see around them every day.

The boy raised his hand to be called on, “I have two questions…well, an observation and a question.” His input was interesting and insightful and a good reflection on the artistic process.

I love the fact that Patchwork’s Arts & Smarts program helps this boy feel like a serious artist. An artist whose art is worthy of documentation. An artist who looks at and tries to understand other artists’ work. An artist who might be famous some day.


The kids have been working with Dave Marienau in the studio learning woodworking techniques as they build fairy houses. Eventually the fairy houses will be installed around Patchwork and in a private garden space near us at the Rathbone Retirement Home. The idea is to create miniature, intriguing, interactive environments to ignite Rathbone residents’ imagination.

The project began with the children sketching their fairy house designs and translating the sketches into wood and foam board. Some of this translation was trickier than others. One girl had drawn a roof that was rounded like a mushroom cap. But how to make a curve using stiff board? And how to attach the roof so it wouldn’t slide off while the glue dried?

“We’ll have to FIGURE IT OUT!” the girl said excitedly.

The next thing I knew, she and her adult partner had found some long, cylindrical foam shapes. The girl figured out how to embed a nail in each end of a length of it and how to push the nail spike into the top of the house to form a rounded roof shape. It was the kind of ingenuity and problem solving that the arts are all about!

Notes from 40 Years at Patchwork:

In October 1980, Patchwork Central purchased and moved into the former Washington Avenue Synagogue at 100 Washington Avenue. The new building was only a short distance from Patchwork’s previous home in a house at 431 Washington Ave, but represented significant growth and changes for the organization. From the October 1980 Patchwork newsletter:

The question ultimately becomes for us whether to proceed with small, carefully-calculated steps (euphemistically proclaimed as “Faith tempered by reason”) or to dare giant, prayerfully-risked leaps, trusting in the wisdom of “Gospel foolishness.” We have chosen to LEAP!

This beautiful and functional building fits the many dreams we share. It symbolizes a fresh and invigorating awareness of the Spirit of God calling us forward. Our decision grows out of spiritual searching and a movement among us to new places of ministry.

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