Monday, October 31, 2011

Boys and Girls Club Creates Giant, Guatemalan Kite for Community Service

By Rachel Bell
Gordon College News Service
October 31, 2011

(This story appeared November, 1, 2011, in the Boston Globe, Salem site.)

SALEM, Mass. – Last year the Torch Club, a group of 10-12 year-olds at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, learnted about Haitian art, Guatemalan textiles and Japanese Manga in an art culture course. This fall their most recent project has been to make a large, Guatemalan-style kite to benefit ArtCorps, a nonprofit group based in Ipswich, Mass, which uses art for community development in Central America.   

“We took two weeks off to make this kite,” said Taylor Nelson, 24, director of art and education at the Boys and Girls Club. Nelson began and oversees the art culture course with the Torch Club and has been helping them build the seven-by-seven foot kite.  “My kids have cut hundreds of kite tails,” she said.

The kite and its tails will be used on Thursday, November 4, as part of the ArtCorps’ annual benefit, “Raising Spirits: An Evening of Art and Stories.” The event begins at 6 p.m. and will be hosted by Cell Signalling Technology of Danvers in their Jungle Atrium, a large green house filled with plants.  

Inspired by a Guatemalan ceremony, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at which people remember those who have touched their lives, the unique benefit invites guests to tell the story of such a person in their life and attach that person’s name to the kite tail. The event includes a silent auction, live Latin Jazz music, and wine and beer provided by Ipswich Ale. ArtCorps will also be presenting the 2011 Creative Activist Award, an award given to two artists, one local and one who has worked in Central America.

“This award is to show that there are people using art for social change right here and around the world,” said Marta Oslin, 34, program director at ArtCorps.

With a background in international development, Oslin has been with ArtCorps for three years as one of six full-time workers. She and three others work in the office space provided by the New England BioLabs (NEB), a laboratory in Ipswich that produces and supplies reagents (substances used for chemical analyses) for the life science industry.

ArtCorps kind of grew out of several projects that we had down in Guatemala,” said Dave Comb, creative director at Cell Signalling Technology and a board member of NEB. Comb said that since 1999, ArtCorps has grown from a nonprofit to an independent group still funded by NEB.

“The Jungle Atrium (at Cell Signalling Technology) goes with the theme of working in warmer climates,” said Oslin. ArtCorps sends artists to partner organizations in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for a minimum of one year’s residency. Each artist works with a local expert in his or her particular field to inspire, educate and organize individuals and communities. Some of the artists’ work includes creating theatrical plays on gender violence with youth in El Salvador, creative workshops for radio broadcasters, helping teach marketable skills like jewelry and bread-making, or designing curriculum on environmental conservation with teachers in Guatemala.

Interested in this kind of work, Nelson applied for a job at ArtCorps in 2009 after graduating from college. When she was turned down, she decided instead to volunteer with them, using her position at Salem Boys and Girls Club to gain more community art experience. Nelson is now helping with the events and marketing committee for the upcoming fundraiser and will be managing the kite-tail and storytelling part of the evening.

The event is only for ages 21 and older but the children and staff who worked on the kite have written the name and story of an inspirational person in their lives to attach to the kite tail. Nelson wanted the kite-making project to encourage the children in the Torch Club to think more about social justice.

“It’s easier to help the kids understand community service when you do it for someone you see,” she said. “But I think it’s more important for people you don’t see. I want to infuse ArtCorps’ idea that there’s a big world out there and art has a role in it.” 

: “Raising Spirits: An Evening of Art and Story Telling” To Benefit: ArtCorps When: Thursday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Where: The Jungle Atrium at Cell Signaling Technology, 3 Trask Lane, Danvers Admission: $50 – tickets can be bought online at


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