At the Boys and Girls Club, an art teacher inspires kids to express themselves

If you look at the image above, you might be intrigued by what you see: A mix of deep earth tones in beautiful shades of amber, gray and gold. Serpent-like creatures slither across the canvas. Craters and ridges make the piece look like a distant planet from the mind of Douglas Adams.

While the piece itself is unique, its artist and his inspiration may be even more extraordinary. The artist of this piece, Noah, age 6, found inspiration alongside other children at the Boys and Girls Club of Western Reserve on Jonathan Avenue in Firestone Park.

The Boys and Girls Club gives kids artistic opportunities they might not have otherwise. For example, they can enter their artwork in a national competition, like Noah did. In 2018, “Sea Creatures” was selected as a winner in the Collage category of Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s National Arts Competition.

Miss Emily is the dedicated art teacher at the Boys and Girls Club who gives her students, including Noah, the tools and encouragement to express themselves creatively.

At the Boys and Girls Club, Miss Emily teaches kids to work with all kinds of materials and styles. The artwork featured on the cover was a mixed media piece, she says, meaning that different materials were used to create the piece. Noah was interested in making sea creatures, for which the piece, “Sea Creatures,” is named.

The other kids at The Boys and Girls Club enjoy a variety of artistic styles, such as painting and even crocheting. One young girl said that she likes to paint because she likes painting her nails.

Entertainment is available to children with just a touch of a button, Miss Emily says — which is why it’s important to teach kids something that they must sit down and take their time on. She says the art projects also show kids that they can create something beautiful and unique, just like professional artists.

But Miss Emily doesn’t just show these kids how to paint or draw. She forms a strong bond with the students she teaches.

When a small group of girls came into the art room while Miss Emily was being interviewed, they surrounded her, hugged her, and clung to her like baby koalas.

When asked why they enjoy art class so much, the first response most of the girls gave was, “because of Miss Emily.”

The Boys and Girls Club also teaches students other subjects and gives them resources they may not find at their schools or at home. This includes help with homework, tutoring, career exploration, and learning leadership skills.

Every day, Miss Emily and other teachers and volunteers give children guidance, inspiration, and the tools necessary for success that they not find outside of the club.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about the kids,” she says.

Allyson Smith is a recent graduate of the University of Akron, where she studied media production. She aims to incorporate her passions of traveling and drinking coffee into a prolific and fulfilling career in the media industry.