Hand-made masks, paintings and drawings with bright colors, unique designs and personal stories created by young artists were recently displayed at Walnut Way as part of the organization’s first annual Summer Celebration.
The event featured works from children who live in or go to school in Lindsay Heights and participate in Walnut Way’s Art at the Heart Program and 4-H Club Photography, led by Erica Heisdorf Bisquerra, neighborhood education and outreach specialist.
The celebration included recognition of the young people who created the artwork, and ended with a ribbon cutting revealing a new, permanent sidewalk art display done by eight youths led by local artist Raoul Deal. Deal’s artwork is displayed inside the non-profit community organization’s building.
The sidewalk art portrays various stages of plant growth.
A local scientist and representatives from Sweet Water Foundation and Milwaukee School of Engineering visited Walnut Way to explain the biology of plant growth to the young artists. After the presentations, they sketched their ideas and those images were transferred using water-based cement paint to a stretch of sidewalk that leads from the front of Walnut Way to the back.
“Each artist took a square and worked on it,” Deal said.
All of the artists worked hard, but Ja’Myra Velez’s efforts stood out the most to Deal.
“There aren’t too many 13-year-olds that I can tell to paint something, walk off, and know that they will do it well,” Deal said of Velez.
Velez lives across the street from Walnut Way and said the project helped her realize her artistic potential. She has participated in Walnut Way activities for six years.
“I was nervous at first because I had never been involved with art before,” she said. “I didn’t think I would be this good at it.”
“There are people that have the talent, but don’t have the drive. She has the drive,” Deal said, noting that Velez worked without complaint in this summer’s 90-degree temperatures.
Cinaa Smith-Yancey, a 10-year-old student at Milwaukee College Prep, has been interested in art for about four years. She had about six pieces of her work on display at the celebration, including paintings, drawings and a hand-made mask. Smith-Yancey plans to be a fashion designer.
“I love to draw flowers,” Smith-Yancey said. “I just draw what I feel like.”
Walnut Way co-founders Larry and Sharon Adams praised the young artists throughout the event, and led a garden tour and open house after the ribbon cutting.
“This is more than about art,” said Sharon Adams. “This shows that when you have something that stimulates creativity and encourages our youth to focus, the outcome is amazing.”