City-run arts center gives children a creative outlet

May 03, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

Six-year-old Felicia Schreiner has a little trouble spelling her last name, but ask her to create a work of art and she'll give you a three-dimensional re-creation of her summer camping trip in less than an hour.

Felicia is a shy girl of few words who comes each Wednesday to a free art class at the School 33 Art Center on Light Street, Baltimore's only city-run center for the arts.

On a recent Wednesday, the other children in Felicia's class chattered and joked in the art center's basement as they drew, painted and pasted their works of art.

Felicia, a first-grader at Federal Hill Elementary School, sat quietly, focused only on her creation.

Using scraps of materials that most would call trash, she lined a shallow box with green paper and drew several little trees, pasting them into the box so that they stood upright. Felicia, a round-faced girl with long, blond hair, also drew her family and a camper.

Finally, she found a symbol of mysterious "green eyes" she had seen in the woods -- an old plastic jar, shaped like a bear -- and pasted it into the box.

Felicia's creation didn't surprise her teacher, Amy St. Aubin, a 28-year-old graduate of the Maryland Institute of Art.

Several of the 10 students who come to her class each week have a talent for mixing colors, designs and ideas with simple art supplies of crayons, paint and paper.

Because most students in her class attend public schools where art instruction is limited, the School 33 Art Center's classes, "give them opportunities to express themselves when they wouldn't otherwise have that venue," Ms. St. Aubin said.

"I don't know why more parents don't send their children here," said Felicia's mother, Gloria Schreiner.

She has been aware of her daughter's artistic talent for some time.

"She would draw more than the other kids and when the other kids would do stick figures, Felicia would draw real-looking people," her mother said.

The Wednesday art class "is a special program for us to give something back to the neighborhood. It's to augment art in public schools or the lack thereof," said Claudia Amory, director of the art center.

The Mayor's Advisory Committee on Art and Culture runs thcenter, in a 101-year-old Victorian building that was once a city elementary school in the heart of South Baltimore, surrounded by modest, working-class rowhouses.

Opened in 1979, the center contains studios rented by local artists and galleries that display work of regional artists. The free walk-in program for schoolchildren is 15 years old.

Ms. St. Aubin and her students work out of the building's basement. Faded red paint peels off the concrete floor. The children work at low, round tables and sit on child-size chairs caked with paint, ink and glue.

The week after Felicia Schreiner re-created her camping experience, Ms. St. Aubin asked her and the other students to create a three-dimensional scene inside a box, inspired by a famous painting of their choice.

Felicia chose a London scene painted by Claude Monet. She diligently painted a pier overlooking the Thames river, the people on the pier and the boats in the distance.

Other students chose to invent scenes inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, Mary Cassatt and Raoul Duffy.

With high expectations, Ms. St. Aubin urged them to expand their works, with more color, more figures, more ideas.

"I want them to be able to push it a little further each time," she said.

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