Early Friday morning, before most college students were awake, children at Bright Beginnings were already up and about creating artwork to be displayed at GW’s Hunger Banquet in November.
The children were eager to get their hands dirty with projects like coloring flowerpots with markers, tracing hands, decorating popsicle sticks and placing painted handprints on canvas to represent leaves on a tree.
“Handprints are always a fun and easy thing for kids to do,” sophomore Julia Coffou said. “We wanted to do some short and quick projects that would keep their attention span.”
The workshop was part of artWorks, a program imagined by senior Hillary Moskow and organized by other students along with the Neighbors Project.
The program emerged from Moskow’s unique experience at a homeless shelter for adults. She was inspired by the individuals who created “beautiful art and jewelry” in the shelter.
“After a few weeks, I discovered that nothing was being done with all this art,” she said. “I started thinking about how I could sell these items and what exactly a project like this project would entail.”
The shelter had an established, yet inefficient, art program that allowed the homeless to create their own works of art, which were then displayed. The proceeds from each piece of art went directly to the artist. To Moskow, the next logical step was to find a partner program.
Along with sophomore Delaney Workman, Moskow developed a working relationship with Bright Beginnings, an organization that provides a safe learning environment for homeless children, and its volunteer coordinator, Krystal Cooper.
“When people think of the face of homelessness, they do not see the faces of young mothers, fathers, and grandmothers raising young children,” Cooper said.
Cooper is also grateful for the “ongoing partnership” between Bright Beginnings and GW and the “creative opportunity to raise funds and awareness of our commitment to homeless preschoolers and their families.”
The children’s crafts from Bright Beginnings will be displayed and given away in a chance draw at the Hunger Banquet as part of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Paired with restaurant gift cards and a chance to win round-trip bus tickets and a one-night stay in New York City, all proceeds from the banquet will go to Bright Beginnings. Tickets for the chance draw will be available at the banquet in Columbian Square Nov. 17.
Crafts from other artWorks programs at Thrive DC, The Fishing School and the Transitional Housing Corporation will be sold online at pricefalls.com, a website developed by Moskow’s brother, Elliot Moskow.
Hillary Moskow plans for similar projects to kick off student involvement in National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at GW in years to come.
But Friday’s arts workshop did more than just raise awareness for the ongoing problem of homelessness – there was also a lesson to be learned in the strength of imagination.
“Art spawns the creative side,” said Workman. “Creative expression helps communicate ideas; it’s very symbolic.”