I had just gotten off of work and missed the bus (my usual luck), so walking in to the community center I found myself caught up in a buzz of volunteers already running around, working on assigned projects. Some people were organizing the hundreds of childrens' books in the corner shelves (the "library", as it was referred to) and others were carrying brushes and large cans of outdoor paint to and from the murals I had drawn up on the drywall behind the desk and on the brick walls outside. I was overwhelmed by the amount of activity happening in such a small space, but I took a deep breath and found my volunteer coordinator, who filled me in on what was happening.
What was supposed to be an event open to the public to come in and help paint my murals ended up becoming a closed service project for a group of OSU students. Initially, I was disappointed, because I was hoping to watch my work unfold at the hands of community children rather than my collegiate peers, but it ended up as an enriching experience for all of us, just in ways I hadn't expected.
The students there were some I knew from classes, some I knew from my own campus service group, and some I didn't know at all. They were from all years in school and many different majors, each one of them claiming to "not have an artistic bone in their body". I would like to think that by the end of this project, at least some of them reconsidered this preconceived notion about their creative and artistic abilities, because the work they did was incredible.
Because I have previously worked with developing artistic skill in children, I know how truly amazing it is to watch a child gain confidence in their abilities and in themselves through creative engagements and experiences. It is that very sparkle in the eye of a child as they admire their own work, the look of pride on their face as they show off their masterpiece, and the pure satisfaction in their smiles at exceeding their own expectations that drives me to want to become a teacher. I never knew that these sparks of satisfaction, admiration and pride could be just as powerful coming from a 22-year-old mechanical engineering major as they are from a 5-year-old kindergardener.
With the afternoon over, and the work completed, we were thanked by the community center for helping to liven up the space with our art and teamwork. Although pretty much none of this project happened as I expected it would, I gained so many new perspectives and learned so much in the process. It served as a reminder of the power of art, and that moments of artistic inspiration don't stop occurring after childhood. Even though at times I felt my murals were useless in the face of the many other serious problems facing this community and the resource center's cliental, I am hopeful that the exposure to the art and the art making process inspires my peers and the community members just as they have inspired me. I look forward to building a stronger relationship with the center through further volunteer work, in addition to seeking out more opportunities for community arts projects in Columbus and New York.