Zoellner art program connects with community

Hundreds of grade four students from five different elementary schools in Lehigh Valley will come together to draw a picture of what the community means to them. Artist Kevin Reese will materialize these images in large, permanent mobiles that will live on in schools for years to come.

This project, entitled “Mobilize our communityIs one of the art distribution programs that the Zoellner Arts Center has organized to encourage students to be creative and collaborative.

Mark Wilson, executive director of the Zoellner Arts Center, said he wanted the center to be a link to the wider community during this time.

“What we’re saying at Zoellner is that the arts have an impact,” Wilson said. “That’s it. We want them to see that [the]the arts can have an impact. The arts can really help bring people together even in these times of struggle. “

Zoellner connected with Paxinosa Elementary School, Parkway Manor Elementary School, Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays, Sainte-Anne School and Diocese of Allentown participate in the spring semester project.

Usually a hands-on, in-person experience, Reese said he adapted his workshops to a distance format. Students will meet him virtually over the next three months to create these structures.

Reese said he would ask students to reflect on what the community means to them, using their ideas and images to inform the shapes he will create for mobile. When all the pieces are in her workshop, the children will decide where the different pieces should go.

As Reese and the schools create mobiles for their own spaces, he will also involve students in creating mobiles for the Crayola LLC, who will be living in the Crayola Experience in Easton. Reese will send different pieces to different schools for students to color with Crayola products, which will then be put back together.

“We’re hungry for community right now, so the idea of ​​being able to reflect on its importance to create something that represents it that they can enjoy for years to come is my mission,” said Reese. “Cell phones are a wonderful metaphor for community. There are many, many different pieces – different shapes, sizes and colors all moving in relation to each other. You see the individual rooms, but you also see that this room is part of a larger installation.

Reese said he’s struggling to get things done in the virtual realm and expects a learning curve with this project, but there is a need for students to continue creating art despite these challenges. He hopes this is the start of a long-term connection with the Lehigh Valley and that they can do things in person in the future.

Community school coordinator Jeanine Stanilious said she liked Reese’s program because it gives Paxinosa students an opportunity to collaborate and aligns well with their school’s values.

“Once I hear what this project, ‘Mobilizing our community’ is, it’s something that is very important to us in our school,” said Stanilious. “We always work with our students to be truly proud of their community and the incredible diversity of our school. The title grabbed my attention in a hot minute.

Zoellner has also connected with College of the Northeast for a program with Kaila Mullady, double beatbox world champion. The college students had their first virtual session on February 22 and will have their second session on March 1.

Mullady’s program teaches students and teachers the basics of beatboxing and creative vocalization. Its program addresses the themes of building confidence, celebrating differences, accepting uniqueness, amplifying your voice, and generally strengthening life and communication skills.

Mullady will create a unifying play that will feature the children at the end of the program.

Wilson said that one of the reasons Zoellner chose this program is that the only thing students need is their voice. The program does not require them to buy anything, which contributes to fairness of participation and means that students can continue creating even at the end of the semester.

Zoellner also conducts a history program with American singer Dom Flemons and a percussion program with the group Third Coast Percussion at Charter Arts High School. Flemons will teach students the history of black musicians, as well as the lineage of black musicians, country music, and folk music.

Third Coast Percussion will guide students through their ensemble’s origins, how they adjusted to COVID, and host a question-and-answer session.

This program is unlike anything Northeast students have participated in, said Denise Parker, professor of vocal music at Northeast. She said she was grateful to Zoellner for connecting Northeast to Mullady, whom she described as a “light” during this pandemic.

“These are the kinds of things that make our society and our world a better place because we grow when we learn, when we share and when we get creative,” Parker said.

Kayleen C. Rice