Sacred Heart Center: Casa Lápiz | The Art Scene

Sacred Heart Center: Casa Lápiz | The Art Scene


♪♪♪ (Speaking in Spanish) If you want to make mistakes
in English, mistakes in Spanish,
that’s fine. Okay? You can learn
from each other. If you need something
to be explained in English let me know. I’m going to be speaking mainly
in Spanish, most of the time. But if you need something else
to be explained in English, let me know
and I can explain to you. Okay? Casa Lapiz started last year. And the beginning of it
was more of like a result of the community
just talking to us and saying we need
cultural programming, we want art classes
for someone from the community. And with that we just
sat down and said, well, let’s try to do something
for middle school kids, because we don’t have anything
for middle school kids. And let’s start having
a creative conversation around cultural identities. We decided to name
the program Casa Lapiz, which means House of Pencil,
House of Drawing. It’s a community of people
from Central and South America that have just migrated here six months ago, a year ago,
two years ago, maybe a lot more than that. I realized this need
to talk about things that they were not able
to talk about in English. This creative language could be
drawing or painting or sculpture or collage started to replace
or fill in the gap of not being fluent in English. One of the first exercises
that we do is a self-portrait. So we have this big roll
of paper on the floor. Each of them lays down
on the floor and someone else
draws their silhouette. And then what we ask them to do is to draw things
that make them who they are inside of the silhouette. There’s a conversation around what things
do we have in common. And then there’s
a conversation about how do those things work
with this new city, with this new language
and people around you? Parents are looking for a place
or an experience or a group where their kids
can practice Spanish in a positive way
and in an open way. But to me the main
way of doing that was to get them
comfortable in any language. They may not be experiencing
that safety in other circles and that could be inclusive
of their school environment where they’re more than likely
being really encouraged and pushed to speak English
or in their home environment where they may be more pushed
to speak Spanish. So this is a space really where
whichever language is bubbling up for them
they’re able to use and neither one nor Spanglish
is really wrong at that point. Something I really try to
encourage with my students it’s like we’re not
just learning English, we’re becoming bilingual. When they’re learning English they’re not losing the part
of them that speaks Spanish because with them speaking
Spanish that’s tied to like their whole
experience and their community and everything
they’ve ever known. What I’ve seen in youth
that are in environments where their identity
is not celebrated or not seen or acknowledged is sometimes there
can be a sense of shame or of rejection
or of neglect for it. I was born here
and have Mexican heritage and I’m a product of Chesterfield County
Public Schools, so I’ve been in
the Richmond area for a while and I remember a time
where my experience in school, culture identity
was not celebrated or talked about
for my particular experience. I think what makes Casa Lapíz, or one of the things
that makes Casa Lapíz special is that we are increasing access
to an art program in a way that’s
welcoming to youth that are only Spanish speaking in the process
of learning English or youth that speak
both languages or even if they speak minimal
Spanish, but identify as Latino. There’s not really
another program out there that is specific
for this population of youth. Those kids need those
resources just like an English speaking child does.
Most of my students, actually I think all of
my students are immigrants. The majority of them
are from Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico
and a few from South America. And I think for them it’s nice to have
something outside of school where they’re with people that
speak the same language as them. They have a teacher that speaks
the same language as them, but they’re not in school
and so it’s more relaxed. And I think that the curriculum and the activities
that the do at Casa Lapiz help them kind of tie
into some of their identity and just their experiences
and their culture coming from the places
they’re from. Every youth program
at Sacred Heart is free. It provides transportation
and it provides meals. We try to do with this family
dinner or family gatherings that we eat together and we understand eating
together as building family and making the community
a little bit stronger. And at the same time
we’ve realized that the kids share a lot more
in that moment when we’re eating
and sharing a meal than when we’re like
standing up front with their drawings
in front of them and we’re asking them things. What I feel that happens
with art is that even if they’re not
doing something extremely specific
about a situation that they’re not controlling
or not feeling comfortable with, they’re still doing
something real with their hands and with their paper
and with their materials. You know, it’s not just there
and it’s not just here. And it’s not just
in a conversation. It’s like they’re actually doing
something here and they’re able to control
what they’re making with that. And that’s huge. It’s like
the beginning of a revolution. It’s like things start
happening there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *