ORLANDO, Fla. — A nonprofit that connects students from marginalized communities with art celebrates the culmination of a colorful project.
What You Need To Know
- Nine students from Parramore participated in a free art program facilitated by ArtReach Orlando
- The nonprofit connects students from marginalized communities with art
- The kids served as inspiration for the mural on Arlington Street
- Since they started in 2012, the program has connected about 4,000 students with art
Nine students from Parramore participated in a free art program facilitated by ArtReach Orlando. The kids served as inspiration for the mural located along Arlington Street.
“When I grow up and have my kids, I can take my kids here and show them I was on a mural,” said Sameenah Allen. “Then they can see how cool their mom is.”
The nine-year-old participated in the program alongside her siblings Samarah, 10, and Seven, 12.
In the mural, located just down the street from the kids’ home, Sameenah reaches high with her right arm, paintbrush in hand, before a gigantic art palette. Elsewhere, her sister, too, with a paintbrush in hand, jumps high wearing striking blue glasses; their brother rides a red, fire-breathing origami dragon.
“We did the photo shoot and said, ‘Jump as art makes you feel,’” explained muralist Maureen Hudas. “We took their input, their ideas about color —the theme is art can bring a lot of joy to your life.”
Decades ago, Hudas discovered her artistic talents which led her to become a professional artist. Hudas has since worked on other notable murals in the City Beautiful, including one along Church Street, which received accolades dedicated to the cause of social justice.
“Sounds so cliche, but art saved me. I found my passion,” she said. “Children, and people in general, all deserve to find their passion.”
It’s what led Hudas to lend a hand at ArtReach Orlando, where they offer free programs to students.
The non-profit, supported by donations and grants, serves six communities within Orange County.
Program leaders, including Curriculum Director Jenn Benner, said their outreach work is about more than colors on a canvas.
“Many of our students are experiencing difficult economic or social situations, some of them live in marginalized communities, some of them might be experiencing adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs,” she said. “The idea that art allows children a safe way to communicate, express their feelings.”
Benner worked as an art teacher for the last 20 years and explained that the payoff for educators like herself is the growth that happens before their eyes.
“That ‘ah-hah moment’ is what we all live for. It’s like soul food as an educator and what you hope your students will experience,” she said.
It was a palpable moment when Sameenah and the other kids saw the mural for the first time after it was finished.
Sameenah ran up to her likeness, beaming, and gave it a high five.
She said that participating in the program allowed her to realize, “it’s okay to mess up,” and art provided an outlet for her to emote.
“Sometimes, when I have some feelings, and I don’t want to talk to anyone about it, I just draw,” she said.
It was the experience program leaders and muralists hoped it would be for students, Hudas expressed.
“Wanting them to feel like they’re not just working on this project, they are this project,” she said. “Becoming an artist can help them find their voice in this world.”
Since they started in 2012, they’ve connected about 4,000 students with art.