Every year, since our affiliation with RHD, we have grown and been able to make more of an impact in communities throughout the city.
The experience of putting together, printing and distributing a peace calendar of children's artwork was the biggest challenge yet - and blessing. The calendar is a vehicle for celebrating the city youth whose daily successes get passed over in favor of sensational newspaper headlines.
Through the calendar we can show many people (10,000 in the year 2000) that city kids "shine" and are at peace in their schools, neighborhood centers and at home.
When children's spirits are allowed to radiate, all is right with a city and a world! The problem is ignorance - pure and simple! Art is the first thing that is cut in school districts to save money and art can be the one thing that keeps urban students interested in academics! Thank goodness the Camden School District has art teachers in every school and some classroom teachers who use art across the curriculum, but still, the walls of the elementary schools are often devoid of artwork because it is not considered important by the powers that be!
Bare walls are a terrible waste of space! Through visual art, children can learn, by "osmosis," their importance and where they fit in the scheme of things!
Thanks to a grant from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Art Aware was able to transform Cream Elementary School into an art museum, with the cooperation of teachers and staff! After two months of the Art Aware Program (which included trips for 350 children to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the gift of 100 large reproductions, hands-on student artwork displayed in the school and in Camden City Hall), the entire Cream School community seemed to "walk taller!"
This year also saw increased activity with the Camden Housing Authority, parochial, charter and public schools, and the NJ State Aquarium and Camden Children's Garden.
Dedicated people - and money - are needed to change the image of a city. There are many such people in Camden but more are needed! There is a lot of money in Camden, but more is needed, especially for the non-profit, grass-roots organizations like Art Aware!
In response to one request for a corporate contribution, the manager of a store told us their leadership felt it more important to give food than art to needy people. We couldn't believe this attitude - coming from a major art supplier at that! Why should it have to be an either/or proposition!?! It is the common perception that art is a frill.
We say art awareness is "the meat and potatoes" for empowering elementary-age kids to recognize their own worth, to want stay in school, and to become caring human beings.
We're so grateful to our
for helping us emphasize the importance of art in the inner city as it
raises up Camden children!
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2 February 2000, Updated 19 August 2004