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!
Like most others around the globe, Portside was not anticipating the drastic changes to our economy and everyday life due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although children and adult programming was ceased temporarily at the Portside, this did not change our dedication to continue providing our community with arts education. We give tremendous thanks to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund in helping us to further serve and nourish our community through art and culture at this time.
In an effort to keep our community engaged in the arts and to connect with each other through creativity, we have introduced virtual programming to our students and community. By seeing and sharing each other’s artwork, we can have a sense of unity and continue to be inspired. Portside’s teachers have been conducting daily virtual art lessons for our After School Arts Program students, as well as virtual Saturday art classes for kids and teens. We have been posting daily art challenges on social media since March 16th, and art activities and resources to our website. In addition to kids classes, adult virtual classes are now in the works and will be launched shortly!
We are grateful to see the Portside continue to grow in ways that we had not previously imagined. We thank those who have given us the support and resources we need in order to continue to fulfill our mission to the community. Thank you to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund for their support in helping us to achieve our goals of continuing programming online and planning for the future of Portside during this difficult period.
Summer is right around the corner, and Portside has many options for Summer Camp this year!
Portside’s Summer Camp Curriculum is focused on Empowering the Artists of Tomorrow. Portside will be offering 8 weeks of summer camp, beginning on June 22nd and ending on August 21st, and features two types of camp; Summer Art Camp and Summer Art Studio. Summer Art Camp occurs during the two weeks of June and two weeks of August, and involves a variety of different art forms and mediums throughout each week. Summer Art Studio, back by popular demand, takes place in July and features a different art form each week. The specialty camp for budding young artists includes weekly themes of Anime & Comics, STEAM & Robotics, Nature & Mindfulness, and Fashion, Fibers & Textiles. Families have the option to sign up for one week at a time or multiple, depending on their needs.
In both Summer Art Camp and Summer Art Studio, Portside students are introduced to the work of local and international artists and each week, and campers will visit Philadelphia’s local arts and cultural hotspots like the Fabric Workshop Museum, Franklin Institute, Please Touch Museum and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
To accommodate parents' busy work schedules, Portside camp and care hours are similar to a regular school day, 8:30 am - 3:30 pm and offer before care at 7:30am and aftercare until 5:30pm. Portside offers a special sibling enrollment discount and an affordable monthly payment plan.
Art classes provide children with invaluable learning that has life long benefits. Learn about the importance of art in child development below:
Benefits of Art in Child Development
Motor Skills: Many of the motions involved in making art, such as holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon, are essential to the growth of fine motor skills in young children.
Language Development: For very young children, making art—or just talking about it—provides opportunities to learn words for colors, shapes and actions.
Decision Making: The experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life.
Visual Learning: Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.
Inventiveness: When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives.
Cultural Awareness: Teaching children to recognize the choices an artist or designer makes in portraying a subject helps kids understand the concept that what they see may be someone’s interpretation of reality.
Improved Academic Performance: A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.