Kids ran from one room to the next, a smile from cheek to cheek as their parents followed suit. This was the scene at the colorful Artquest Studios Free Family Night. Every Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the Greenhill organization in downtown Greensboro hosts a family friendly event revolving around spontaneous art making. Artquest Studios, in coordination with Greenhill, is where the magic takes place. This decorated art studio is split into four sections: painting and clay, the Scrap Lab, puppets, the NC Art Studio and the books section.
Before entering the studio, there is the front desk where Imani warmly receives you. She gave me a tour of the art studio before children and parents began to pour in.“It was founded in 1964,” Imani said, as we made our way through the painting section. In the painting area, paper hung against large colorful boards on which one could move their paint brush from left to right. Each painting paper hung from a wooden clothespin, making it easy for anyone to express themselves through art.
The section that overlapped in the same room with painting was clay. Here, kids would get the messiest. In the middle of the tables, there are tools for anyone to use to mold their creation into various shapes and sizes. A little girl named Cameron would roll her clay piece ten times over before squishing it within her hands and repeating the process. Once she got it just right, she smothered her masterpiece with paint, combining all resources that were in this first section of the Artquest Studio.
The second section was the Scrap lab and puppets. Here, there would be material that spanned from shoelaces to buttons to cloth that people could take, split or cut and put together to create various objects to their liking. A couple feet away from that area, are where the puppet shows happen. Next to a big cardboard cut-out of a castle with two windows, is a bin filled with hand puppets that anyone can pick up and use.
Adjacent to that is the NC Art Studio, where they “host birthday parties,” Imani explained to me. This space also provides a place to sit as a group and enjoy artistic activities. With such an open, expression based environment, one would think confusion and anarchy would ensue. That is where Jessica comes in. Jessica is the Artquest Facilitator.
“I keep track of the studio…mostly when I’m here, it’s open studio so it’s a self-guided experience,” said Jessica. As a facilitator, Jessica practices a hands-off approach. She is not there to “teach,” she says. Instead, she is there for when help is needed.
For Jessica, art has always been something she has been passionate about. She wanted to be a teacher earlier in her life, and she’s always enjoyed kids and the joy they feel when they have the opportunity to express themselves. “This is sort of the perfect mix,” she said, as a child passed by us with one of their masterpieces in their hand.
Jamie Myer, the Director of Education at Greenhill, was interviewing someone just around the corner in the Scrap Lab. Myer has been working at the organization for a little over 20 years. Her titles changing with the tide of variety. “When you’re in school you feel as though you need to produce something that there is an end to,” said Myer, waving her hand over the Scrap Lab section, a place she later called, “a place of freedom.”
“You come in, and you feel like this is a space for kids and most people feel intimidated after a certain age to make art anymore,” said Myer. Even then, Myer said, the great thing about this place is that it is a judgement-free-zone, having parents draw, paint or sculpt right next to their kids. However, it is not just parents and their children coming here. Sometimes one has to de-stress from life and explore new things. That’s what Chanel is there for.
Chanel went to A&T and has been in Greensboro for six years, yet this was her first time here. She now works for A&T in the Cooperative Extension Department which deals with agricultural research. Chanel plans on inviting everyone she knows but expressed disappointment that she couldn’t find this place sooner. “I didn’t even know…that speaks to community outreach and engagement,” said Chanel. But she is glad she found it sooner rather than later, and plans on coming back many more times.
Greenhill is located at 200 N Davie St. and is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 2 to 5 p.m. on Sundays.