Located at a playground in the heart of an apartment complex, little faces begin peaking from their balcony ledges at the scene below. What do they see? Other kids, writing their names with cans of spray paint on large sheets of paper all while being guided by a graffiti artist. While shy at first, one by one kids started to ask questions about the project and soon found themselves spraying their names too. The prompt for the workshop was simply to “write your name.” It asked kids, how do you express yourself? From large block letters to rats to Deadpool, it was not so much what the youth made but the fact they were making and learning a new tool to use their voice and represent themselves.
This was the first workshop of SAMA’s summer workshop series for children, Street Art School, in Amsterdam-Noord, under the umbrella of MooiMakers program by Amsterdam municipality. The workshops are focused around the design for the walls to be painted in the same neighbourhood: the Klipper or the Tjalk.
Tools of Expression
If I had a euro or every time I used spray paint before I was 13 years old I would… have zero euros. Giving children serious and high quality spray paint is a gift because it shows them that yes, their voice matters and yes, they deserve access to these materials.
The SAS workshops are also promoting creative mediums outside of the typically assumed can of spray paint. We are having poetry, rap and breakdancing workshops as well. With these artistic outlets, kids will gain communication skills and through the workshops collaborative skills.
The spaces and mediums of the workshops gives kids a lot of freedom. After sitting still in school all day, they have a chance move their bodies by drawing to a seemingly giant scale, or dance, or even shout their name at the spoken word workshop.
Towards the end of this series, kids will come together with professional muralists to design their own murals. There will be two murals, and the artist will act as a “co-producer” and follow the lead of what the children want to see in their neighborhood.
The series of workshops build on another. Our first workshop was about making introductions, by our spraying our names. With every workshop we get to know the kids better and they get to know us better. By the end of this series, the culmination of a mural with be natural and ingrained in the community. There will be a few designs the residents in the local apartment complex will get to vote on.
Last week, as the opening alluded to, the artist Keys, also known as Metin Bagirgan (@keys020), kicked off Street Art School. Along with the importance of high quality materials, we are excited to have professional artists leading these workshops.
Yesterday, the second workshop was led by Ben de Boef (@bendeboef), a tattoo artist. He is following in his mother’s footsteps, a school teacher, by teaching drawing workshops to youth. He clearly has fun connecting with kids through art. He showed the kids step by step drawings in his own unique style. The images were easy to follow showing students how to break down a drawing, so that after the workshop they may be able to approach their own art with a little more confidence.
The workshops are not just teaching the youth, but giving them stronger connections. These connections can be with the professional artists, but more crucially, with each other. Art builds community, and building community generates resilience.
Next week we are looking forward to creating calligraffiti with Daan Wille (@teamblazin), who is a masterful calligrapher. There, kids will learn how to artfully write their own names.
So about now you may be thinking, how do I get to do a community arts project? How do I encourage joyful participation?
Here are some tips:
Start by creating a strong team of community partners. This will most likely include folks working in your local government. For us we are supported by MooiMakers, a government organization for beautifying neighborhoods. Additionally, this can include local community centers, organizations, schools (having a handful of teachers is always a bonus for a team!,) and even businesses.
Tell schools about your workshop in their neighborhood, that way they can let families and students know of something fun to go to.
Give yourself time! Both for planning the event and while the event is unfolding. For planning the event, receiving project approval from the city/town government can be a slow process. SAS has been in the works for months. During the event, kids may take time to warm up to the group of people or the project itself.
Consistency. A one-off workshop is less likely to have a crowd than the fifth workshop. Coming every week to the same location says to the community that you are invested and dedicated to connection and providing them with workshops. People will then fall into the routine of coming regularly to your event.
Have snacks-- snacks simply make everything better.
While the event is happening, be present and aware. Having kids and young people to say “hey, want to join!” is great, and an easier way for kids to know “ok, cool, this seems legit.”
Good luck! To stay in the loop on our next workshops, follow us on Instagram @streetartmuseumamsterdam and like us on Facebook.