WOW, what a spring! Last Friday evening, Portside families, teachers and administrators joined together in Portside's first ever virtual graduation for this past year's After School Arts Program (ASAP) students. During graduation, all 56 students in the 2018/19 After School Arts Program were honored for their accomplishments at the Portside in the past school year. It was great to see everyone's faces, celebrate together, and get some closure to the strange end of the school year that we have all experienced.
Although we were unable to gather in person at the Portside for the last three months of ASAP, Portside's teachers and administrators pulled together and worked hard to maintain a strong sense of creativity, structure and socialization in students' daily lives by immediately transitioning to virtual programming. Portside's lead teachers taught daily art lessons on Zoom, and assistant teachers posted art activities online for the kids. For many of Portside's ASAP students, this was the highlight of their days for the past few months.
"It's kinda crazy making art together. It's kinda crazy because, well, we don't see each other that often...it was helpful to see my friends," said Sharks student Cole, age 8, about his daily art lessons with Miss Natasha.
Thank you to Minnows lead teacher Miss Rachel, Sharks lead teacher Miss Natasha, Pirates lead teacher Miss Jesa, and our assistant teachers Miss YeEun, Miss Paulina, Mr. Joseph, Mr. Chris, Miss Gabby, and Miss Jean. With their help, we have been able to make it through these past few months and to continue "Empowering the Artists of Tomorrow." And thank you to all of our students for being AWESOME and creative young people.
"I'm very proud of our teachers and their dedication to picking up immediately and continuing to provide arts education virtually to their students. We have the best kids in the world!” exclaimed Kim Creighton, Founding Director of Portside Arts Center.
We are really looking forward to this year's After School Arts Program where we will see many returning happy faces, as well as some new ones!
This Wednesday, June 10th at 12:30pm EST, the Portside will be holding the second artist talk as a part of their "Artists at Lunch" virtual series. Portside's "Artists at Lunch" series is a biweekly virtual artist talk being offered to the Portside community and beyond! During each of these 30 minute artist talks that occur every other Wednesday from 12:30-1pm EST, a new artist will be introduced.
This upcoming "Artists at Lunch" will feature Jeffro Kilpatrick, a Philadelphia-based cartoonist and art teacher. He co-founded the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society in 1997 and is a longtime member of the Meathaus Comics Collective. In 2015, Jeffro won a SEED grant (Supporting Entrepreneurship in Education), an annual event presented by PhillyCORE Leaders for his Philly Artrepreneurs program. Jeffro also co-designed a community mural in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia with the Mural Arts Program. During his artist talk, Jeffro will be sharing completed works of art as well as works in progress with viewers, and will hold a 10 minute Q&A session at the end of the talk where viewers will be able to ask questions.
Although the Portside has sadly been unable to provide in person classes for adults and kids at the center during these past few months, we have been able to take advantage of and experiment with virtual programming for kids and adults, and adults. "Artists at Lunch" was created to engage and connect with other artists and people interested in the conversation, in Philadelphia and around the country. Because this is a virtual program, we have gotten sign ups from people all over the country to participate this Wednesday!
In addition to spreading inspiration and sharing their knowledge, the artists featured as well as the Portside ask for donations from viewers to help sustain the Portside during this time. With these donations which will go to the children's scholarship fund, we will be able to continue "Empowering the Artists of Tomorrow," and right now, art is more important than ever!
Please click the link below to learn about how to register and watch Jeffro's artist talk online.
It goes without saying that the past few months have been difficult for everybody. It’s been a time of uncertainty, of solitude and of despair for many people across the globe. But as it often goes with many unfortunate events, there is a silver lining for some among the grim. The latter goes for Jason Ertwine and his nine year old daughter Skyler, who is a longtime student of the Portside’s After School Arts Program. This experience has made it possible for father and daughter to spend more time together and create art!
The “art piece” that the two collaborated on is a giant mural that covers Jason’s rooftop, and is now one of three rooftop murals in the Kensington/ Port Richmond neighborhood, the Portside Arts Center rooftop mural being another!
The idea for a rooftop mural came to Jason (who is a Production Lighting Specialist outside of quarantine) when some friends of his were planning a social distancing drone flight/rooftop toast. Jason wanted his roof to stand out to those who were flying drones overtop of it! He lives next to the elevated train, and has always wanted to create some sort of “landmark” on his roof for passengers of the Market Frankford Line to see during their commutes. He began brainstorming ideas of what he could put on his roof, but none of the ideas stuck. It was his 9 year old daughter Skyler who brought the inspiration, and whose artwork would ultimately be featured on the giant rooftop.
“She showed me a piece of art she made for her Mom...That was the point of inspiration. when I saw the pic, I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” said Jason Ertwine.
Directly after seeing Skyler’s drawing, the duo headed back to Jason’s house where together they got to work on a draft of what would be displayed on the roof. Skyler was the main artist, with Jason as a guide to help with conveying the message, and fitting the space. After about five drafts, they had their final copy. They covered the roof with white roof sealer paint to create their canvas. Jason then copied and laid a grid out as a mural artist would do. Following the grid, they were able to accurately scale Skyler’s picture up to the size of 18’x35’.
The final product features a girl, a prominent character in Skyler’s artwork that she has been drawing for years, wearing an unsure smile on her face and letting go of a heart shaped yellow balloon. Written inside the balloon is the year ‘2020.’ The release of the yellow balloon symbolizes the release of our everyday lives as a result of the pandemic, such as maintaining our daily routines, seeing friends and family, and other comforts and hobbies that have been abruptly halted for the vast majority of us. Jason explains his thought process of deciding to include the yellow heart, saying that “We live in a world of Emojis. I thought the yellow heart would best represent that. The original is the red heart. I didn't want to use that because it represents Love, and we still have that.”
When I spoke over the phone to Skyler about the experience with her father, she was humble at first, but you could sense her pride in knowing that she had created something special. “It was a little scary being up on the roof,” she said, but that did not stop her commitment to getting up there everyday and making her and her father’s shared vision a reality. The bubbly and personable Skyler has been attending Portside Arts Center since she was in kindergarten and has gained personal and artistic growth through the After School Arts Program. Since social distancing measures began, she has been missing Portside, especially “seeing friends and teachers everyday.” She told me that her friends were all very impressed when she told them about her mural!
It is evident that the physical end result of this impactful rooftop art piece is not the most important part to Jason and Skyler, but rather the process of working on it together. They spent over a week on the roof, working an average of about 5 hours a day on it. When asked what Skyler’s favorite part about the experience was, she said “spending more time with my Dad.” During that time, they spoke about the past, about Jason’s childhood and his life’s journey, among other things.
The two bonded during these long conversations and deepened their relationship through the POWER OF ART!