Program uses art to bring families together

Camille Doty

May 5, 2012 at 12:05 a.m.

Brothers Samir,7, and Ajay Shamma, 5, wait for their naturally-inspired masterpieces to take form during the "Make Art With Light," workshop.

Brothers Samir,7, and Ajay Shamma, 5, wait for their naturally-inspired masterpieces to take form during the "Make Art With Light," workshop.

Jeri Franks says art feeds the soul. Although, she admits her bias.

The 44-year-old Victoria resident spreads joy to children through the Manhattan Art Program, where she teaches them how to create masterpieces out of items from their homes.

The mother of two said art goes against the status quo. "Kids are told to stay in the lines. We tell them the opposite," she said.

Franks, the Victoria MAP director, has spent Saturday afternoons for the past 10 weeks at the Nave Museum during the "Opposites Attract" exhibit, which utilizes light and dark contrasts. This particular showcase was created by Franks' boss and featured artist Maura Sheehan.

"It's like MAP's second home," Franks said, referring to the museum.

Saturday was the final children's workshop, "Make Art With Light," which allowed the children to learn about the display at their level. There were several interactive workshops with a human checkerboard and Simon Says games. Children also made silhouettes from their own shadows and flowers. There were 52 children and 23 adults who attended the last installment, which was about three times the average attendance.

Sheehan returned to Victoria from New York and enlisted support from artist Jo Wood Brown. The MAP founder, Sheehan, drew inspiration from the museum's architecture and wanted to share her awe with the children.

"Victoria has a wonderful jewel like the Nave," Sheehan said. "It's like a Greek temple."

Ajay Shamma may not know all of the history behind the exhibit, but he had fun participating. The 5-year-old was focused on his sun art project. He couldn't wait to see his shadowed masterpiece. His brothers Samir, 7, and Rami Shamma, 3, accompanied him.

Ajay came back to Franks' flower station several times. He would take breaks between the games.

"Do you still have my flower?" he asked Franks.

"Why, yes I do," she responded.

Franks used anecdotes to keep the children engaged. She said the flowers were sleeping before they bloomed into their full beauty. When the budding artists opened the paper flower, their eyes widened with enthusiasm. Franks said she likes to see those moments.

Her daughter, Kaci Franks, said growing up with art made her happy. The 24-year-old Victoria resident said she enjoys working with her mom in MAP. Kaci helps her mom with making displays and organizing projects.

"I do pretty much anything she wants me to do," she said.

Jeri Franks is excited about future projects to come, including the art cars show. She wants to encourage kids to enjoy the elements that surround them and to just have fun.

"There is no right or wrong with art . and it's the perfect way for children to express themselves."



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