Just 10 hours remain for donations to help Vanessa German expand the ARTHouse project in Homewood.
The current ARTHouse is at the corner of Hamilton and Hale and owned by the Allegheny Housing Rehabilitation Corp. Vanessa, a sculptor, painter and performing artist, pitched the idea of using it for after school art workshops and AHRCO said yes, for four or five months.
Almost two years later, two needs converged: AHRCO needs its house for a low-income family and Vanessa needs more space. She found a double house surrounded by vacant land just up the street and has it under contract. She is paying a portion of what she needs out of her sculpture sales and a portion, $28,000 so far, from contributors to her indiegogo campaign.
“It needs a lot of work, but I will supply the elbow grease” and sell sculpture to get credit to buy equipment and supplies, she said. “I will work to get it up to code and put a fence around it and plant flowers and trees. I can get people to help patch and paint.”
In 2012, when Vanessa was making her own art on her front porch several doors away, children would stop and ask to play with paint and clay, she said. There were so many children wanting to participate them and today the ARTHouse can barely accommodate the growing numbers. She gets from eight to 10 to 22-25 children on any given afternoon.
The walls in every room of the ARTHouse are filled with children’s work. Colorful panels cut out in the shape of hands, hearts and signs are posted in and outside. The floors have paint splatters that look like intentional designs.
Vanessa is getting some of the children’s art work framed for the ARTHouse’s first show, at the Undercroft Gallery of the First Unitarian Church in Shadyside in June.
“I think kids have a sense of being compelled to create because they are trying to figure out who they are,” she said. “It’s an innate thing that’s not languageable. Kids would come over the fence wanting to make things [at her home, before ARTHouse]. Some kids don’t live here anymore bu their parents still bring them. One girl has really grown to understand patterns and contrast and that is exciting to me.”
One recent afternoon, the first children arrived at 4p, one little boy she called Rah-Rah, who said he is 5. He walked around the kitchen in little circles, neither taking off his coat nor his big backpack, and said, “Do you have treats?”
“I’m going to get them out,” she said, “but I want to know: Do you want to be here or do you just want a snack right now?”
“I want to be here,” the boy said.
A little girl in a hat with paint splatters tapped Vanessa absently and said, “Miss Vanessa, can I finish my collaboration?”
“You can see how crowded it is,” Vanessa said, trying to spread the artwork out on tables without them overlapping. “Kids get paint on each others’ paintings. Kids stand in the front door and look in and see their friends in here but there’s no more room. I don’t want to have something where some kids can’t get in.
“So many kids who come to the ARTHouse are like gypsies, moving all the time, with no sense that their community is holding them.”
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