By Kristin Bednarski
On the second Saturday each month this fall and winter, a small group of children has been meeting at Milford Main for a creative, educational experience that helps them express themselves.
Cathy Barney, a Milford writer and artist, created the program, Artsy Fartsy Saturdays, to help at-risk children in the area expand their creative horizons and express themselves in productive ways.
Barney said she got the idea for the program several years ago after speaking with her daughter’s teacher about what could be done to assist at-risk children in the Milford area.
As an artist herself who sometimes volunteered in the classroom, Barney said she had witnessed how beneficial art and creative expression were, especially to marginalized children.
“These were the kids I notice really shined,” Barney said. “It planted a seed that someday, I wanted to do something with these kids in the realm of art.”
Barney said, as a Quaker, she viewed the project as ministry, and was able to apply for Quaker grants, including the Clarence and Lilly Pickett Endowment and Good News Associates, as well as a grant from the Clermont County Mental Health and Recovery Board, to help fund the program.
“What better method of positive mental health is there than positive personal expression,” Barney said.
Barney said she was able to secure a location in Milford and began reaching out to students who she believed would benefit from the program.
Barney said several teachers helped her identify students, and she reached out to them, as well as their parents.
“We had a community art day and distributed fliers,” Barney said.
Barney said it was important to get to know the students and their parents, so everyone could understand what the program would be like.
She said they ended up with 14 students who are picked up and transported to the art room on the second Saturday each month for Artsy Fartsy Saturdays.
“We have a different theme every time,” Barney said about the program. “There is always a plan.”
Barney said that for Halloween, the students made Venetian masks that they were also able to use as a costume.
“We had a shaman come and drum, they made drums and learned how to drum,” Barney said. “They decorated a yoga mat, learned yoga and got to take the mat home. There is always an activity.”
During their class on Feb. 9, students got to meet Robert Murphy, a local poet and publisher, hear poems and then create their own on magnet poetry that they could put on their locker or refrigerator at home.
“What I like about it most, is every week it is always something different,” Aariana Walker, a fourth grade student, said about Artsy Fartsy.
Walker said she enjoys learning from the people who visit the class and completing crafts. She said her favorite project so far was the Venetian masks.
Elizabeth Fox, a sixth grader, said she also likes learning new things at the class.
“Every time we come in we get to learn a different style of art,” Fox said. “You learn something new every time.”
Fox said in art class at school, she never felt like she was very good.
“This has given me the spirit to embrace what I know in art,” Fox said.
Fox said her favorite thing so far was also making papier-mache Venetian masks. She said she also enjoys coming to the class because it gives her a chance to unwind.
“I get to get out of the house and meet up with friends,” Fox said.
Barney said Artsy Fartsy runs from September to May this year. The class meets from 1-3 p.m. and is limited to 16 students.
She said they are always looking for donations and volunteers for the program.
For more information, or to donate, visit www.facebook.com/artsyfartsysaturdays, or call (513) 453-7055.