Arts event lets kids shine

Approach: By giving children a hands-on opportunity to explore their creative sides, a college's annual program provides an avenue for expression and education.

January 21, 2001|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Little girls dressed up in flights of fancy and elbow-length gloves, sipped juice from teacups and imagined themselves ladies yesterday.

Then they ran off to other pursuits. Like smearing blue paint over a canvas with their fingers.

This is art - not Art with a capital "A" that keeps all but the avant-garde away, but the kind that attracted more than 300 people looking for entertainment and a little food for thought.

Called "First Arts 2001," the affair was Howard Community College's chance to open its doors and show off its creative side.

The event, first held last year, offers a day full of free activities such as improvisation and Chinese brush painting. Last night, people paid $40 and $50 a ticket for a fund-raising performance to benefit the arts and humanities on campus.

Several hundred people showed up at the Columbia campus by lunchtime, and Valerie Costantini, who directed the event, expected more than 1,000 by last evening - about twice the number who attended last year.

"It's fun," said Costantini, chairwoman of HCC's arts and humanities division. "Arts don't have to be stuffed shirt and high brow. The arts can be available to all of us."

Three-year-old Sophie Goron even got some art on her - in the form of green paint on her pink tights - as she added to a mural yesterday.

"I don't know if we came dressed for this, but it's all washable," said her mother, Melanie Goron of North Laurel, laughing.

"Mom!" Sophie called with emotion, brush in hand. "Look at the prettiest green!"

The mural, which started off white, was covered in green - and blue and red and splashes of other colors, in true child style. Artists came and went, adding hearts, houses, trees and a few math equations. "One of the best comments I heard: When one kid was leaving, he said, `But Dad, they're painting over all my work,'" said Ron Richards, a volunteer from Laurel.

Nearby, 12-year-old Sara Stevick decorated a plastic mask: feathers as eyebrows, glitter on the chin and sequins in strategic spots. She waited in line for 45 minutes to be one of the lucky 20 children to get into the popular session.

"I like artistic things," said Sara, who lives in Stafford, Va., and was in town to visit relatives. "It's a hands-on thing, and you get to express your feelings."

Other girls gathered for a proper tea party run by Barbara Brickman, who teaches public speaking and fine arts at the college. The children picked out costumes, sat at tables decorated with baby's breath and got a polite lecture on how to behave.

Sit daintily - legs together, napkin on lap. And never stuff a whole cupcake into your mouth.

Brickman, dressed in a black dress and white floppy hat, also reminded her charges to say "please" and "thank you," and to treat others nicely. "It's not only rules for tea - it's rules for life," she said.

Downstairs, children kicked and bounced to the joyful, infectious beats of African music. Jazz musicians played to an audience munching on hot dogs.

Respective rooms offered a film about Liberia, a storyteller and a demonstration of stage combat how actors put on a fight without actually fighting. Linda Emmerich, who works at HCC, brought her daughters to get them away from the routine of homework and daycare.

Sara Eastham, 7, just wanted to dress up in long white gloves, a flowered dress and clip-on earrings. It's art, all of it, Costantini said. She thinks it's important stuff, too.

"We can achieve no more than we can dream," she said, "and the arts teach us how to dream."

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