Laura Brino is the Outreach Coordinator at Maryland Hall. She is the lead teaching artist for the Jovenes Artistas (Young Artists) program, an outreach program that has been at Maryland Hall since 2013. The program was developed as a comprehensive arts program for at risk youth. It provides a safe environment for self-expression, confidence building and motivation to stay in school.
Laura says, “I am so proud of every one of the kids in the Jovenes Artistas program. In particular, I felt so proud when a past student of mine (from Laura’s time teaching at Bates Middle School) who was expelled from school after making a weapon in my classroom, returned to the school three years later and asked to speak to me. He had been to Cheltenham (a juvenile detention center) plus numerous foster homes. When I saw him, he asked me if I was still doing the ‘art club’ at Maryland Hall, and if so could he join. He told me stories about how he had been performing at Busboys and Poets in DC and spending time on his art.
That student just recently had an impressive collection of work on display at MD Hall and is putting himself through college for design. He is going to be leading classes in the next year for younger students. This is the same kid who stole paint from my middle school classroom and painted graffiti in the bathroom and the outside brick. To see a kid like that grow into the empowered and enlightened young adult that he is now is so moving and speaks to the healing and inspiring power of art.”
Laura says that there is also a young lady who became a part of the J.A. program two years ago, who is now leading the middle schoolers in arts based relationship building activities.
Currently, due to Maryland Hall’s temporary physical closure, Laura has taken her talents virtually and created a weekly online ArtReach Challenge. When asked how she comes up with such enriching and creative ideas which are posted on Maryland Hall’s Facebook and website, Laura says, “My hope with the ArtReach Challenges is to create a safe baseline for everyone. It shouldn’t matter what your background is or what you have at home. It shouldn’t matter how old you are. What matters is having access to inspiring activities to help you see the world around you a little differently. I try to create a tiny moment that distracts us from the day to day and can allow us to be creative no matter your circumstances.” Laura checks in with her students weekly and says that while some send her photos of their art challenge projects, overall she knows that they all appreciate the challenges whether they respond weekly or a few weeks later. In mid-May JA classes resumed meeting 3 days a week virtually.
While the J.A. program includes 25-30 students each academic year, Maryland Hall is working on a plan to expand the program in order to provide more classes and allow more students to participate. In this virtual age however, we are sharing our ArtReach challenges with all of our partners and hope that the many students who participate in other outreach programming may be able to benefit from them!