The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)
Art program helps youngsters draw topics, confidence in life with cultural heritage
Jeffrey Pye is using art to help Lorain Black and Hispanic youngsters expand their minds and also gain a greater appreciation of their cultural heritage.
On a recent Saturday morning, three aspiring artists and a grandmother sat at a table creating, and exploring their artistic talents inside a chilly classroom at Harrison Cultural Community Centre. Colorful posters made by others lined the walls.
Paints and markers were scattered about.
Two brothers, Zaire Wren, 9, and his younger brother Jondel Elek, colored pieces of poster board while 19-year-old Jaylen Gilchrist traced out the face of Cathy Williams — a Buffalo Soldier — on a clear sheet of plastic in preparation for a painting project.
“They are like ‘Wow, I can do this.’ They walk away feeling good.”
— Jolyn Jones, a grandmother
The three were part of what Pye calls his Start with Art program, which helps participants improve their art skills. But it does more than that. It gives the children something to do on a Saturday morning when if they weren’t working on an art project would probably be sitting idling watching some mind-numbing TV show or be out in the hardscrabble streets of Lorain and the danger that comes with that.
Pye, 63, and a 1976 graduate of Lorain High School, said he got hooked on art from his father, James, who was also an artist.
“That was his passion,” said Pye. “He was selftaught. He came from the South to work in industry. He was commissioned to do a couple of things.”
Start With Art features a Saturday workshop, and meets with other youth groups throughout the weeks. Participants have had their work shown in exhibits at the Lorain Arts Council and in shows at Lorain County Community College.
“We just did a Hispanic themed one in December and now we are getting ready to do one for Black history, which we’ll have up in time for Juneteeth,” Pye said.
Currently, kids in the group have begun work on paintings of lesser-known Blacks who have made an impact on history.
Like the Buffalo Soldier, that Gilchrist worked on.
“That can start a conversation. People will be like, ‘Who is that?’ ” said Pye.
He directs the students trace the face of the subject on a sheet of clear plastic, the size of a regular piece of paper. They then use an oldschool overhead projector to project that traced picture onto a canvas.
“We try to do a large size so it has a bigger impact,” Pye said.
Tracing the image first helps eliminate mistakes.
“They still have to paint it,” Pye said.
Pye started the program in 2016 and works with different programs aimed at helping at-risk youths.
He stresses the kids have to work at their craft.
“This is practice. I don’t expect you to be perfect,” he patiently explains to Ziare. “You know how you like basketball? You had to learn how to dribble. You had to learn how to shoot. You’d didn’t just come out doing these things. It takes practice,” Pye said.
Pye said he believes his program gives kids “something constructive to do with their time.”
“You are exercising your brain and it’s fun,” he said.
Jolyn Jones, the grandmother of Ziare and Jondel, said the program has helped her two grandsons’ development.
“They look forward to doing something on Saturday. I can see it lifts them up and gives them confidence. They are like ‘Wow, I can do this.’ They walk away feeling good,” said Jones.