Signs of Hope Arts Program Expands into Red Bank
Updated: Nov 11, 2019
By Deryn Albrecht
There is something beautiful about children of all ages and backgrounds coming together to create masterpieces that reflect their growing minds. When these students are given a blank canvas, their minds stir with anticipation as they prepare to make something worth being proud of: their own art.
The Monmouth Arts Signs of Hope program, with components of visual and performing arts, offers students the chance to be creative in various out-of-school settings. Monmouth Arts piloted the program for two years at the Boys & Girls Club of Asbury Park and was able to expand to the Red Bank location this summer, thanks to funding from the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Provident Bank Foundation. The program kicked off with the Club’s approximately 100 summer camp participants.
Signs of Hope began in the Asbury Park Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County as a weekly after school program in spring 2018 and continued in 2019 (click here for more information on that program). Funded by the Mary Owen Borden Foundation, the program included drawing and painting, improvisation, dance, and music. The program was such a success that Monmouth Arts sought funding that would support the program in Red Bank, just a few blocks from where Monmouth Arts is located.
The main focus of the Red Bank summer program was the Puzzle Project, a collaborative art project in which each student is given a large blank puzzle piece -- a blank canvas to be decorated in whatever way they chose: paints, markers, pencils, stickers, collage, letters, glitter, pom-poms, etc. The Puzzle Project is done in conjunction with Tim Kelly of the Art is Good Foundation, which has used the project worldwide to foster creativity and build community.
Although the Club has an art room and art activities in place, the summer campers, ranging in age from 5 to 14, were excited to have a new activity to experience. Throughout the four weeks of activities, Monmouth Arts staff and volunteers set up campers with their own puzzle piece, supplies, and aprons. The “assignment” was to put anything on the puzzle piece that spoke to them or made them happy. There were pieces that included summer time hobbies, favorite animals, positive quotes, abstract designs, and blends of colors.
“When I'm mad sometimes I draw, and it helps calm me down,” says Amonyai, one of the campers. “If I'm trying to get my emotions out, art is the easiest way to do that.”
Club staff and camp counselors were also invited to make their own puzzle piece, as it helped students feel closer and more connected with each other. All participants were reminded throughout the program to think about how their individual puzzle pieces would eventually be a part of a bigger collaborative piece of art.
On the final day of the program, an ice cream party was held to showcase and celebrate the work of the students. The puzzle pieces were assembled into large panels and hung up throughout the building, much like an art gallery. Campers, staff, family members, and friends were invited to view the panels and even draw on spare pieces, and other mini art projects were on hand for the festivities.
“I know the kids feel like this is one of the best art projects we’ve ever offered to them and they just love how it came together,” says Ebony Holloway, the Red Bank Unit Director. “They didn’t know how it would turn out and they liked the connectivity,” she continued.
The Signs of Hope program will resume at the Red Bank unit in the fall, with arts programming for the Club’s after school students. To see more photographs from the summer program, go to our Facebook page.
For more information about Signs of Hope, please email Connie Isbell, Monmouth Arts’ Membership & Community Engagement Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.