Every Saturday this past October, children and residents have gathered at the Mill Creek Recreation Center, 4700 Brown St., for art classes hosted by the community group Fine Art Through Our Eyes (FATOE). The classes run through the beginning of December,
This past week, the class celebrated the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, which translates to “Day of the Dead.” Traditionally, family and friends celebrate Dia de los Muertos by gathering to pray and remember loved ones who passed and to help support their spiritual journey.
Brujo de la Mancha (pictured below) led the class on Saturday, Nov. 3, teaching students how to make skulls with papier-mâché. Originally from Mexico City, the self-taught multidisciplinary artist has been living in Philadelphia for the past twenty years.
“I grew up believing and experiencing independent thinking, realizing that my people are rich in resourcefulness in their own power for self-control,” Mancha said.
Classes are open to all ages, and both children and adults filtered through the room. Program Director Cassandra Green (pictured below, left) said the program teaches community members about artists of color and helps to bring the community together. With a contemporary art background, she finds projects that are easy to do in and out of the classroom.
“We try to expose people to all kinds of disciplines and like today, this is something practical that you can do yourself,” she said. “Then you can implement it at home and also teach other people.”
Beverly Brooks (pictured below) has been coming to the classes since the first ones in early October. She brought along a friend this week and her granddaughter the week before.
“The people are phenomenal,” Brooks said. “When you can come together and make stuff, it’s a special kind of bond.”
Sarah Gregory (pictured below) is a Temple graduate student in art education. She helps teach the classes and became involved when she interned at FATOE over the summer.
Like Brooks, Gregory said she enjoy watching the community, across many demographics, connect over art.
“This has been a really delightful experience,” Gregory said. “I’m going to school to be an art teacher so this is a great way to meet new people and work with new age groups.”
Everyone is welcome to the free classes regardless of skill. The only requirements are to register, which can be done at the community center and even during the class, and to sign a photo release form.
Local artist Jerry Puryear (pictured below) has been working with FATOE for more than 10 years.
When he wasn’t making sure everyone had enough materials, he was doing a lot of one-on-one instruction with students. Puryear is adamant about letting students find their personality through art and according to him, language is a huge part of that.
“When someone says, ‘I can’t do this,’ I say ‘You don’t know how to do it yet,’” Puryear said. “Or when someone is like, ‘I’m new at this and don’t know how,’ I say, ‘You will learn. You’re here to learn so that’s OK.’”
-Text and images by Kaicey Baylor and Taylor Allen.