Art program helps young people gain confidence in life

Jeffrey Pye uses art to help black and Hispanic youth in Lorain broaden their minds and better appreciate their cultural heritage.

On a recent Saturday morning, three budding artists and a grandmother sat down at a table to create and explore their artistic talents in a cold classroom at the Harrison Cultural Community Center. Colorful posters made by others lined the walls. Paints and markers were scattered.

Two brothers, Zaire Wren, 9, and his younger brother Jondel Elek, colored billboards while Jaylen Gilchrist, 19, traced the face of Cathy Williams – a Buffalo soldier – onto a transparent plastic sheet in preparation for a a painting project.

The three were part of what Pye calls his Start with Art program, which helps participants improve their artistic skills. But it does more than that. It gives the kids something to do on a Saturday morning when if they weren’t working on an art project they would probably be sitting around watching a mind-numbing TV show or the rough streets of Lorain and the danger that resulting. .

Pye, 63, a 1976 graduate of Lorain High School, said he got hooked on art thanks to his father, James, who was also an artist.

“It was his passion,” Pye said. “He was self-taught. He came from the South to work in industry. He was instructed to do a few things.

Start With Art offers a workshop on Saturdays and meets other youth groups throughout the weeks. Participants’ work has been featured in exhibitions at the Lorain Arts Council and in performances at Lorain County Community College.

“We just did a Hispanic-themed one in December and now we’re getting ready to do one for black history, which we’ll have in time for Juneteeth,” Pye said.

Currently, the children of the group have started working on paintings of lesser-known black people who have had an impact on history.

Like the Buffalo Soldier, which Gilchrist worked on.

“It can start a conversation. People will say, ‘Who is that?’ said Pie.

He asks students to trace the subject’s face onto a sheet of transparent plastic, the size of a regular sheet of paper. They then use an old school overhead projector to project this traced image onto a canvas.

“We’re trying to make it big so it has a bigger impact,” Pye said.

Tracing the image first eliminates errors.

“They still have to paint it,” Pye said.

Pye started the program in 2016 and works with different programs aimed at helping at-risk youth.

He insists on the fact that the children must work their trade.

“It’s practice. I don’t expect you to be perfect,” he patiently explains to Ziare. “Do you know how much you love basketball? You had to learn to dribble. You had to learn to shoot. You weren’t just out doing those things. It takes practice,” Pye said.

Pye said he believed his program gave children “something constructive to do with their time”.

“You exercise your brain and it’s fun,” he said.

Jolyn Jones, Ziare and Jondel’s grandmother, said the program has helped the development of her two grandsons.

“They can’t wait to do something on Saturday. I can see it uplifts them and gives them confidence. They’re like ‘Wow, I can do this.’ They come away feeling good,” Jones said.

Kayleen C. Rice