Starting the studio was a little bit of a crap shoot. I did my homework investigating school hours and meal time customs
The hours for the studio were set according to the school schedule; some kids go to school in the mornings from 7-12, others go in the afternoon from 1-6.
(A need due to overcrowded schools).
So I opened for 3 hours in the morning, and 3 hours in the evening thinking kids would come according to the school schedule. This was perfect in the summer when I first opened but after school started no one showed up for morning sessions. The kids are probably doing the same thing as they would be doing in the USA; SLEEPING!
I adjusted my hours to be open 4 hours in the evening.
The studio began with a “come make art and stay as long as you are engaged” policy. This is my preference.
There are a few that come in, with an idea or not, make their art and leave....within an hour’s time. They get down to business and go.
But I found that most of the the kids are so hungry for creative outlet, many would stay the entire 4 hours I was open.
I fought and fought and fought to not have distinct session times and specific beginnings and endings.
Some of the kids could turn into production machines; hopping from one media center to another faster than some kids could wash their hands and sign in.
I put limits on the number of activities they could work on. Painting is one activity, sculpture is one activity. You can do 1 or 2 paintings and that is still 1 activity. Get it?
But what about someone who made a sculpture, then wanted to paint it, then glue decorations on it? Well, that’s 1 activity because it is one piece of art. Get it?
It’s not black and white. What in art (and life) ever is?
The allowed time was shortened to 2 hours as the number of children waiting out side the doors increased.
Then in order to preserve my sanity when I work without a volunteer (usually on Friday nights- more about this in another post) and let more kids into the studio in a manageable way, I started to limit the time to 1.5 hours. While the studio was full and the energy relatively calm with productive artists, the lines grow outside. I have counted up to 12 kids waiting outside, for as long as 45 minutes in the heat and humidity. I feel sad when the 2 girls who have waited patiently for 35 minutes finally get frustrated and leave just 4 minutes before I peek my head out to let them in. I need to refine the waiting process; maybe a sign up area on the chalkboard I painted outside to entertain the kids while they waited? A lottery? I am not sure.
The kids learned to arrive early to ensure they got in the studio. I arrive at 15 minutes early to open at 4 o’clock to see 8 kids waiting at the door. Some kids think they have figured out that it’s a number limit for occupancy. A few do a head count when we are washing hands and signing the register. They haven’t quite realized that it’s a combination of personality styles AND number of kids. All girls 9-14 years old? I can handle 15 of those. All girls plus that one girl? Push it back to 10. All boys? I can probably do 10 at a time. Girls and boys? Definitely no more than 12.
So here we are at just over a year of operation. I returned to the island after a month long break that included work in the States, and attending a meeting in South Carolina.
I decided not to fight the lack of volunteers on Friday nights and Saturdays and changed the open days to Monday through Thursday. The kids moved seamlessly into the new schedule. I asked the kids to tell the others about the change and the news spreads quickly through the neighborhood.
Everybody’s (adults) response was positive; especially acknowledging that “now you can enjoy the weekends”. I find that funny since most of the volunteers are ex-Pats (ex-Patriots-people who live in another country other than their original) and don’t work. I guess after a lifetime of a weekday grind, people still have a TGIF mindset.
The studio is like a living being; constantly growing and changing. The flow ebbs and tides like the sea that surrounds us.
Who are all these kids? And how in the world did I end up in Mexico?
I am an artist and art therapist with a passion to change the the lives of kids in Cozumel, Mexico through the power of creating art.
If you are love art and kids join me on this exciting journey. I’m sharing it all here; every hope, every uncertain moment, every sweaty step, and each small victory. —anita yeh norrie