These are the four young artists I've been working alongside the past three afternoons at a local food pantry called Mother Hubbard's Cupboard. We've been making a mosaic to cover the walls of the rather large, cement block trash can in the MH's picnic area. I say trash can, but I think I mean trash can holder, since, for the first two days of our project, a very full, bagless trash can remained inside, chained to the cement. This was unfortunate to put it quite gently. Possibly, if it hadn't been quite so full, I would have spent more time thinking about how nice it was to get to watch kids come into an unfamiliar place and make it more beautiful, but instead, I thought mostly about how terrible everything smelled and how to avoid being stung by a bumblebee dragging garbage on its behind.
Adam, the lone boy in the picture, and the artist behind the 'tree' side of the mosaic, jumped into my car on the first day of the project and said, 'I don't know where we're going, but I really hope it's to do art.' He then asked me what my favorite stuffed animal was out of zebras, hippos, or rhinos. I told him hippos and he said, 'small or large?' I told him that I thought I would like a stuffed hippo of any size and he said he thought that could be arranged. I'll post a picture of it if I get one anytime soon. On Valentines Day, Adam brought in his clarinet to play 'When the Saints Come Marching In' for me. Have you ever heard of a sweeter gesture?
Doria, the girl in the white shirt, led everyone in a rousing round of 'Down by the Banks of the Hanky Pank' while we were all waiting for the grout to firm up. I kind of remember singing some version of that when I was in school but, unlike Doria's version, mine had no references to women's underwear. Doria made the flower with the many colored petals. One of my jobs at DREAMS is to give snacks to the students after school. I think that she is the only kid who hasn't once complained about snacks. Once I accidentally gave her burned popcorn and when I tried to take it back, she said, 'Oh, no, Miss.Emily, this is good. You're good at making popcorn.'
Rachel, in the orange, and I worked on grouting the butterfly today. She picked the stones and tiles for the butterfly so carefully that I think she got a little sad to see all the white go over them. That is one of the steps of the mosaic making process--you coat the whole mosaic with this fudgy, white cement and then quickly wipe away the spots where the tiles are so that they can show through. Rachel started wiping away the grout almost immediately. 'I think I see one of the pink stones on the wings!' . . .and then, 'Oh, good, the eyes are still under here, he can see now!'
Gates, in the navy jumper, gives me daily advice on my wardrobe. For example, 'I wish that brown and purple went together, Miss Emily, because then you would match, but they really don't.' . . or, 'You've worn those shoes four days so far this week, Miss Emily, is it because you really like them, or because you don't have more at home? Because, if you have more at home, you really should wear them.' I've found that she has a very good eye for color but I also think that it's easy for a person that always wears a school uniform to tell other people they don't match. I am touched that anyone pays attention to what is on my feet. Gates made the fruit, although I am responsible for the malnourished looking banana.
Below are pictures of the trash can holder from both sides.