Summertime Fun 2019

This summer, along with the Ceramic Stories gardening and storytelling sessions (more on those soon), I’ve done a pop-up park event with the New York Restoration Project and ran a planting-sensory table at Art in The Park’s autism family fun day.

I love having the opportunity to work outside in the summer, it’s a nice change of pace from classrooms and opens up whole new forms of engagement.

At the Sherman Creek pop-up park event, I set up a community mural for people to fill out.

I used a long roll of white butcher paper, glued on a green construction paper stem, yellow center, and asked “What makes Inwood Bloom?” Admittedly, I got some help from NYRP's education with the lettering since I don't have the neatest handwriting.

The activity being to fill out the flower with people's favorite things about the uptown community. I pre-cut petals of teal, red, and pink for people to write their answers and then glue on, creating a mural of flower petals that extended across the paper. Some of the most common answers were “the people” and “the parks” and I’m inclined to agree.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

Photo of art mural on fold out table. The mural is on a long white sheet of paper and covered with “flower petals” in red, teal, and pink all with writing on it that is indiscernible at this distance. “What makes Inwood Bloom” is written in multi-colored large letter up top. On the mural can also be seen some writing and doodles. The table has some rocks on it, holding the paper, supplies, and other objects down in the wind.

For Art in the Park’s Autism Family Fun Day I ran a table with flower pot painting and planting. It was a condensed version of the three-week Ceramic Stories programs I run with NYRP. Since this was a one day event I had families come and paint the pots, not necessarily creating a story, just having fun.

Once the painting was done I left them to dry and told the families to come back in a few minutes to do the planting. There was a lot to do at the fun day, so it was an easy enough request. There was grilling going on (including black bean burgers for the veggies like me!), non-profits tabling, sensory spaces, and a table full of free books that was run by a speech therapist.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Autism Family Fun day grill set up, families and children are in the foreground of a shot of a food line. Tables in the background have the food on them and in the top right of the photo the grill master cooks while smoke can be seen coming off the grill.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

Inflatable, plastic swimming pool with an inflatable palm tree in the middle of it situated on a piece of asphalt. The pool is filled with water-bead sensory materials.

When they were dry and the families came back, I had the kids add the soil, seeds (marigolds or poppies), a little bit of water, and then sent them on their way with some care instructions. The soil and seeds for the planting were donated by Urban Garden Center, an amazing garden store in East Harlem. If you’re in NYC check them out next time you have any gardening needs!

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

Entrance to the store “Urban Garden Center” The store's name is in large green block letters on a wooden frame with the word “Urban” being the largest. In the background can be seen plants and garden supplies such as fencing as well as signs denoting the stores hours and sales.

The event was a huge success! Shawnique, the Art in the Park director, had one-hundred people signed up on the eventbrite and I imagine most, if not all, showed up along with families who came off the street when they heard the fun! We went through all the pots and paint over the course of the day and a lot of families left with new plants to care for!

Events like these makes the summers so fun, but it also makes them fly by! The second session of Ceramic Stories will be starting next week in Sherman Creek and it’s hard to believe that’s already here!

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.

Painted flower pots arranged on plates dry beside a tree. There are names on the plates that denote whose pot is whose, but the writing is difficult to discern at this distance. In the middle of the pots are two large bags of soil. In the background can be seen a sidewalk chalk welcome to Autism Family Fun Day.


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Mendive Closing at Bronx Museum

The Bronx Museum invited myself and the students from PS 73 read their praise poem as part of the closing ceremony of the Manuel Mendive exhibit. 

During and after the ceremony the poem was displayed on the museum floor in the midst of Mendive’s work. It was touching watching people pass by, read the poem, and interact with the content. Some laughing at the sillier answers, others nodding in consent as a word resonated.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

Large, mural poem is load out on a concrete gray exhibit floor. The mural poem itself is colorful, with white letters popping out through greens, purples, reds, blues, and yellows, to form words. The angle of the photo makes it difficult to see the start of the poem, though the lower words “ And running / playing/ minecraft / call of duty/ PS4/ and fun” are visible. In the background is the Manuel Mendive exhibit full of natural imagery with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns. To the right is one of Mendive’s ladders also featuring the nature themes in smaller detail along the side and on the steps.

The ceremony itself didn’t last too long, but it was quite a powerful showcase. Poet Orlando Ferrand read his praise poem he wrote to Manuel Mendive over the beat of Roman Diaz and his supporting drummers. This had been the basis for both the rhythmic and thematic work I had been doing with PS 73 throughout the Fall partnership, so being there in person to hear a live rendition was a wonderful experience.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Afro-Cuban Poet Orlando Ferrand reads into a microphone from a red folder. He is wearing all white beret, glasses, a red shirt, white pants and black sneakers. In the foreground are audience members holding phones up to film and take pictures. The background is the Mendvie exhibit. No single piece of art is all in frame, but the nature elements of Mendive are clear with trees, leaves, roots, birds, jungle like plants, and human figures all visible in blues, greens, red, yellows, and browns.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Two afro-cuban men play drums. The one on the left is younger and bit cut off by the frame. On the right is Roman Diaz, he is an older man, wearing a black berret, sunglasses, a red shirt and a black blazer. His large drum is horizontal across his lap and covered in a decorative blue, white and gold cloth. In the foreground are audience members, one holding up a phone to film. In the background is artwork by Manuel Mendive on a white museum wall. The art has a jungle like scene where humanoid figures are sitting on, around, and underneath a tree.

Check out these studio recordings of the praise poem on the Bronx Museum’s Soundcloud to get a sense for the reading. In the large exhibit space though Ferrand’s voice and Diaz’s rhythm carried, making it an almost mystic experience, as if the audience was wrapped up in an incantation. A final spell from Maestro Manuel Mendive.

Also, the students and I made the flyer! We had our names in the interior copy and this great photo of our poem on the back. Big time stuff!

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

Small paper flyer on a white table. The flyer has a photograph of the large, mural, praise poem in situ at the school against a brick wall with other art projects surrounding it. Below the photo is a description of the Bronx Museum, it’s social media content, and the funders/donors.

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Block Party!

With the school year looming ahead, I wanted to take some time to reflect on one of my favorite NYC summertime events: block parties!

I’ve had a blast volunteering at block parties in Harlem and Washington Heights. I’ve run activities tables for kids ranging from storytelling to magic wand making.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for  Wizard of Oz  party theme.

Donnie Welch, young caucasian male stands behind a table in a white T-shirt. On the table are a bubble machine, story book, and supplies for children’s crafts. In the background can be seen apartment buildings and people in costume for Wizard of Oz party theme.

 There’s an amazing, hectic energy in this work. It can go from me standing around to six kids all asking for help with a craft in a matter of seconds!

Unlike working in a classroom or through program where there’s a set time and attendance list, block party work really keeps me on my toes!

I also like to come a little early and volunteer with the set up when I can. As a program provider in the community, I think it’s important to be involved in events I don't plan.

If all I did was show up to the garden or roll into the library for my half-hour sessions that would technically be enough (since that’s all I’m asked), but putting in the extra effort shows the families I’m working with that I’m here to stay, not just parachute in for my programs.

Plus, it can be fun! When I worked the West 150th block party I showed up early and they put me on letter board duty!

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Big white letter board sign with black and red lettering. Sign has a red star at the top and reads “ 10 years / of heart / brains / & courage”. The sign is on a rocky surface with some plants and mulch from the garden visible behind it.

Block parties are a great space for working with whole families. In programs, parents sometimes feel like they should sit out unless asked to be directly involved. But at the parties, everything happens so fast and the energy so high! I've had parents who are just as interested in the activity as their child and who sit down to really engage in wonderful ways with their kid around completing the craft. That's where it's at!

If you're out and about in the city next summer and  see me working a booth come by and say hello!

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