Philly children get creative at City Hall art celebration

The third annual Make Art Philly drew hundreds despite the heat wave.

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Hundreds of young campers and families braved the heat this week to enjoy the third annual Make Art Philly event at City Hall Courtyard.

The city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy (OACCE) hosted the free day of art for children ages 12 and under on Wednesday. A dozen artists and art organizations participated, including the Asian Arts Initiative, StoryUP!, and Tiny Farm Forest Wagon of the CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia.

The OACCE hosts multiple events throughout the year, including an arts education fair planned for Aug. 27 at the Kimmel Center, all designed to connect cultural arts organizations with youth programs and schools.

“Linking kids to opportunities in arts is primarily what we do,” said OACCE Director Kelly Lee.

(Aishah Fasasi / The Notebook)

Photo by Aishah Fasasi.

Individual artists, art programs, and organizations were invited to apply through an open Call for Proposals for Make Art Philly. Participants were selected based on the uniqueness of the activity and the ability to accommodate 100-150 people.

One group selected, called We Are the Seeds, is a women-led indigenous organization that focuses on Native American culture. It partners with many artists throughout the city and emphasizes the importance of expressing the artists’ stories through art and making sure that it is accessible to all. The group also held a Native American Art Festival in Philadelphia and plans to partner with Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 12 at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown.

“Indigenous culture in Philadelphia is getting much bigger and visible as time goes on,” said Tailinh Agoyo, director of programming at Seeds.

Being a part of different events in Philadelphia is important to members of the group because they get a chance to actively present themselves as indigenous. Traditions are important, they say, but people need to see their culture today. This evolution is shown in their art, which has gone from pottery and textile-weaving to painting and jewelry-making.

“Make Art Philly is the perfect place for this,” said Agoyo. “It’s in the middle of the city, and there are so many summer camps and families that can participate.”

(Aishah Fasasi / The Notebook)

Photo by Aishah Fasasi.

“I was someone who was always exposed to art,” said Leslie Zamora, associate and graphic designer of We Are the Seeds. “I’m glad I’m a part of an organization that allows people to start connecting to it.”

We Are the Seeds also works directly with schools and summer camps to introduce children to a variety of indigenous traditions.

“We like presenting Mayan music and dance for the kids. It’s more engaging for them,” said Zamora.

Another organization at the event, Special ED Art, focuses on giving special needs students resources and access to artistic expression.

“There are so many different means of communication. Not everybody expresses themselves well verbally or can communicate their emotions verbally, so music and art are very important avenues for that,” said Zach Spangler, a Philly native and volunteer at Special ED Art.

(Aishah Fasasi / The Notebook)

Photo by Aishah Fasasi.

Spangler said he never really had the opportunity to attend these types of events while he was growing up, so Make Art Philly and other such events are significant for him.

“There is always more that can be done, but seeing something like this is very encouraging,” Spangler said. “This is fantastic. We have hundreds of kids out here. It’s free for everybody, and the city supported it. That’s amazing. I feel like it has a long-lasting effect.”

James Britt and Aishah Fasasi are Philadelphia high school interns working with the Notebook through a WHYY summer work program.