I do not think I truly understood what leadership was and what it meant to me until this summer when I took on a new job working for Artist’s Working in Education, Inc. I was hired as the Lead Artist/Teacher for the summer Truck Studio program, which brings a brightly painted mini-van stocked with art supplies to different parks across Milwaukee. When the van pulls up in the park, the kids flock to the truck because it is a free, drop-in, art program for children to create fun, imaginative, and stimulating projects taught by artists and art educators. With little teaching experience, I was nervous to step into this new job position. However, with a love for children, art, and education I knew I had to take the chance because an opportunity like this does not come often.
Now, our six-week program in the parks has come to a close and the summer flew by before my eyes. Within these six short weeks, I have never been so mentally, physically and emotionally stimulated and exhausted. Throughout the summer, my Truck Studio saw over 800 kids, averaging about 60 kids per day. I quickly learned that my job in the parks was not only to feed the children artistically, but I also saw that many kids needed to physically be fed because they would come to the park hungry and perhaps not having access to adequate food. Thanks to the Hunger Task Force food truck, which provided free meals for the children in the park everyday, the children were able to eat, which then helped them feel better and more focused on their art work with positive and more patient attitudes.
I saw new parts of Milwaukee that I had never seen before and I visited new neighborhoods that I did not know existed. I have never advocated more for art in education than I did this summer. I never once turned a child away because we were running low on supplies or we were maxing out on capacity for how many children we could serve. I welcomed everyone and told them to bring their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins and friends. I made a goal at the beginning of the summer to have the highest attendance that Artist’s Working in Education has ever seen and I can proudly say that our Truck 2 Studio achieved that goal.
I am so fortunate to have had this job this summer so that I could give children the gift of art making when many of them have limited experiences with art. I have been forever changed by this job because I have seen first hand how art affects children. I would encourage all artists, art educators, and lovers of art and education to seek an organization like this in their own community. If none such exists, I would encourage people to find what leadership means to them and take a stand for art education. I am young and only beginning my career, but I have seen how art education changes children’s lives for the better. There is nothing more fulfilling than to see a child and their artwork.