Many would argue that art therapy is effective in helping people cope with certain situations that have either troubled them in the past, or help in managing their present situation. In using the creative process, the individual is able to express himself or herself by way of an artistic medium. More recently, art programs specific to glass blowing have been developed to train underprivileged or at-risk children, offering after school and summer programs free of charge.
The idea for these programs sprung to life at the hands of Kathy Kaperick, founder of Hilltop Artists in Residence in Tacoma, WA. Kaperick was a close friend of Dale Chihuly, as well as an artist herself. At the time, the Hilltop area in Tacoma had a less-than desirable reputation, with gang activity and drugs playing an almost constant theme within the locale. Kathy had a passion in wanting to do something for the kids at Hilltop. She thought that glassblowing could be a very mesmerizing activity for the children. The idea of making glass was appealing to the kids because of the danger it presents, the challenges one faces in creating something, and how unique the finished product ends up being. With the glass artists’ community consisting of many art-driven adventurous types, Kaperick thought it would be a perfect match.
At the time of Hilltop’s beginning during the summer of 1994, there wasn’t a furnace that the school could use as facilites were provided by local public schools within the central Hilltop area. Snapple bottles were melted down in order to create the glass, and then the glass was then rubbed on the concrete outside of the building for cold working. Fifteen students were enrolled that first summer, and the numbers only continued to increase in the subsequent sessions. Today, the programs run through both the school year and summer. After-school programs are offered four days a week, and Hilltop provides elective classes to Jason Lee Middle School and Wilson High School on a daily basis.
The children involved in the programs offered by Hilltop were typically very private individuals. The “one size fits all” approach to education was not applicable to everyone, and these children wanted to learn about art in a more hands-on manner by directly getting involved. Art is very transformative, and the idea is that art might just be what these children need to bring out their creative inner-selves.
According to executive director Kit Evans, “The kids get a chance to have the process of thinking something through and seeing the results of the choices they made immediately,” she says, “They create something – either fused glass or a bead or blown glass – and they go ‘I made that? Really?’ and have the opportunity to take it home and be proud of their work.” Hilltop Artists in Residence gives the children the chance to live in and be part of a healthy and creative community, and allows them to try new things that they previously thought were not possible. The art experience increases academic ability and gives the children a different way of looking at themselves, thus increasing self-confidence. Kit Evans states, “If you can bring them into a place where no one can fail, really, it’s an incredible opportunity.”
In addition to the programs designed to train the children in making glass art, Hilltop Artists in Residence offers year-round free passes to the students at the Museum of Glass. The students also have the chance to exhibit their work for three months at a time at the Vetri Gallery at the Traver Gallery, one of Tacoma’s premier art galleries.
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