Most libraries have ceased to be only about books. In today’s
communities, scheduling time on a laptop is greatly in demand and multiple programs can also be found. Such is the case at the Homestead Branch of the Miami-Dade Public Library System where children from age four through high school are taking art classes.
ProjectArt, which was established in Harlem in 2011, has grown to seven more cities to include Miami. The mission is heartfelt, “ProjectArt transforms the nation’s public libraries into cultural hubs by offering youth free after-school art classes and providing studio space for emerging artists.” To date, their efforts have reached more than 2,000 youth.
The Miami Chapter elaborates with their action, “ProjectArt Miami’s culturally
responsive resident artists teach visual art to students ages 4-18 years in 8 libraries throughout Miami while developing a new body of artwork inspired by collaborations with students and the library.”
Sandra Portal-Andreu, ProjectArt, Miami Director & Southeast Regional Director of Impact, explained in greater detail. “ProjectArt selectively recruits its instructors from a pool of socially-minded local contemporary artists chosen by a jury of art world professionals. These Resident Artists participate in a 9-month residency from September through June with each artist assigned to a public library where they teach, mentor youth, and create artwork in the library’s community room. Now in our 4th year we are currently serving 360 students from Homestead to North Central Miami-Dade.”
She’s been with the program for three years and had engaged with the library system in different projects on the performing arts side. “This is a win-win because I can expand more into art and I can give back to the community. We started here in Homestead as an inaugural program with classes for ages four to seven; eight to twelve; and one reserved class for Miami Bridge high school students.”
While Resident Artist Sonia Baez Hernandez is usually busy teaching the visual arts, she broadened the reach for a special event Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at the Homestead Library. As Portal-Andreu explained, “The students will be presenting an on-site performance activation addressing climate change. For over a month, our ProjectArt students under Ms. Baez Hernandez's guidance have been developing various types of works from paintings, sculptures to movement and spoken word. These works will be on display in the Library for a month.”
In her interdisciplinary approach, Baez Hernandez has often combined performance and installation art and the students liked the concept. “One has to provoke imagination in the students; we can use art to talk about social issues. They are aware of climate change through school and what they hear. They decided this was a subject to address. I guided them some, but movements and improvisation were from them.”
Sherry Lovllette, mother of twelve-year-old Kayla, was waiting as the students gathered around their teacher for some final discussion. “We came for the first class three years ago. Kayla enjoys drawing; she’s done some ink and chalk and likes anime. This is their first multi-media project.”
The students moved into one area of the library and Baez Hernandez attracted the attention of patrons to watch. “The children wrote their own lines,” she said earlier. Among those was eleven-year-old J.P. Gonzalez with, “Too much of what mankind makes can destroy our land.” For Kayla, it was, “We are the future; we need to be saved. We shouldn’t be silenced.” Nine-year-old Emma Bruera’s closing words of, “Go Solar!”, were
emphasized by all eight students.