Shaking their closed hands in the air like maracas while singing “Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom,” preschoolers at John Heinz Child Development Center responded to teaching artist Cheryl Capezzuti with this chant as she read about alphabet letters climbing a coconut tree.
At home with their parents, the children had already drawn pictures of items starting with the same letter of the alphabet as their first names, and later that morning they would make papier mâché “shakers” as instruments for their song. Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, a children’s book by Bill Martin, is the theme of Ms. Capezzuti’s four workshop residency created for the Center through a partnership between Gateway to the Arts and the University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development (OCD).
Gateway’s partnership with the OCD demonstrates how the arts can strengthen parent-child relations and build connection between families in communities.Through a variety of arts activities parents and children have the opportunity to bond while discovering one another’s creative abilities. Projects resulting from the workshops will be on display May 15, 2010 at the PAEYC (Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children) Conference Creativity: Where the Future Begins in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Sixteen OCD Family Support Centers have signed on to host and document residencies provided by seven Gateway to the Arts teaching artists. These residencies, the bulk of which are occurring this March and April, focus on a range of artistic media in sixteen separate communities in Allegheny County.
Lawrenceville families are working with visual artist Joanne Kielar to create a terracotta and wood patchwork wall hanging to represent the community. Choreographer and visual artist Staycee Pearl is leading East Allegheny families in creative movement and crafts based on the book Over in the Grasslands by Anna Wilson. Africana arts are the focus of Celeta Hickman’s multidisciplinary residencies at three different sites and visual artist and storyteller Amir Rashidd is collaborating with families at three other sites to create representations of individual, family and community identities and interests. While in Pitcairn, videographer Curtis Reaves is capturing family interactions with a Family Fun Night documentary.
At the Latino Family Center in Squirrel Hill, the newest OCD Family Support Center, Argentina-born artist Veronica López is creating visual art projects with parents and children during Thursday morning Spanish language playgroups, inspired by books such as Jordi Busquet’s El Mar and the Spanish version of Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
“Parents enjoy this too,” says Samaria Arzola, the center’s director. She hopes to continue Ms. López’s visits beyond the conference project and incorporate art-making activities into playgroup time.
At some of the centers, professional development is being offering to staff members to continue the types of activities introduced by the artists.
“There’s been a lot of really good energy about the conference this year, as well as much positive feed back from the parents,“ says Kaitlin Moore, conference manager at the Office of Child Development.
To sign up for the conference, visit www.pghaeyc.org.