Professionals specializing in visual arts are providing free lessons to children and adults.
Two penciled sketches of facial drawings sit atop wooden easels at the front of two adjacent tables lined with a bin of crayons, miniature figurines, erasers and paper. With children running between the two playgrounds in the background, this small area sets the scene for the Department of Parks and Recreation’s Visual Arts Program Art in the Park.
Ranging from toddlers to teenagers to adults, participants appreciated learning different facets of art, such as sculpture, still life or painting on a weekly basis. The program’s first session, which initially began in May, started up for a second time in early September and runs 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Oct. 27 at Marconi Plaza, Broad and Bigler streets, one of six city sites to host the free series.
The experimental program — the first of its kind to be held outside of the City’s recreation centers — has received positive feedback since its inception. Site coordinator Anthony DiFlorio said residents thought it was a good idea, and the regulars have continued to come back week after week.
“It’s a good community outreach,” he said.
DiFlorio noted that the program helps to promote the fact that recreation doesn’t have to involve just sports and athletics, but it can include other activities as well.
“A lot of people are not really aware of the other programs like this that we offer,” DiFlorio, a resident of Seventh Street and Washington Avenue, said.
Art camps and special contests are scheduled throughout the year under the Visual Arts Program.
The power of implementing art in education has been stressed for years. And as the children walked up to the table during the Sept. 25 session and their parents signed the attendance sheet, delight exuded from their faces as they started drawing on their own or as they received instruction. Two young girls sat side by side and chose to create an instructed self-portrait while looking in the mirror to reflect back and draw what they saw. Another was situated diagonally across from the two girls and drew a figure of her liking while her mother sat by her side and also joined in on the fun.
Richard Harvey, one of the two recreation specialty instructors working at Marconi, said he appreciates the new program and what it provides to children.
“I think it’s really special. Kids get a great deal out of it and it’s so simple,” the Germantown resident and avid art instructor said. “You see kids that have seemingly nothing get so much joy out of it.”
The program runs on using existing materials — chairs and tables from local recreation centers — and extra supplies.
Harvey’s teaching partner, Anna Schonewolff, who holds a master’s degree in art instruction from the University of the Arts, agreed as she described a recent lesson focused on modeling clay.
“They had a great time,” the Northeast resident who has been working for parks and rec for more than six years, said. “They really enjoyed modeling clay and jewelry and especially baking it in the oven.”
Estee Esworthy, 6, a first grader at the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, 2600 S. Broad St., even has started marking the visual arts sessions in her calendar.
“She looked forward to it all week long,” her mother, Jennifer Esworthy, said about the previous session.
Both parents, residents of 18th Street and Moyamensing Avenue, have participated in the weekly lessons with Estee and her older brother, Efrem, 9. That day, Harvey, encouraged Efrem to become more involved and create one of his own drawings. He demonstrated how to sketch the magical character of Jake the Dog from “Adventure Time” off of the fourth-grader’s shirt for him whereas Efrem jumped into drawing one of his favorite Skylanders for the very first time. This program has helped Estee’s innate love of art grow.
“I color at home and have a giant bucket of markers and crayons,” she said.
When her mother said Estee’s father, a graphic artist, enjoys the sessions just as much as his children, Estee disagreed.
“No, I like it more than dad,” Estee, who fills notebooks and journals with her artistic renderings, many of which her mother carries around, said. “Dad says I have good drawings.”