When I was younger, art was my favourite class. It didn’t matter if you were good at it or not, you got to play with art supplies, put sparkles on everything and leave your desk and talk to your classmates. So when I got involved with McMaster Arts for Children last year, I was reminded of the importance of creativity. I was placed at the St. Brigid’s Catholic Elementary School in downtown Hamilton with some other students from McMaster for the entirety of second semester.
The most amazing thing about the program was the change I saw in the students over the months. My favourite was a youngin’ named Malakai who initially thought the crafts were lame but was bragging about his ideas by the end.
In an interview, Amy Lu, the president of MAfC, described the ideas behind the club.
Can you describe what you do, who are you affiliated with, and how you decided to reach out to specific parts of the community?
McMaster Arts for Children (MAfC) members work in teams to run weekly arts & crafts and music activities for children in the Hamilton community throughout the school year. We work with several placements in the community, including the MSU Daycare, a number of elementary schools through the Virtual Y afterschool program run by the YMCA, and women’s and homeless shelters such as Inasmuch House and the Good Shepherd Centre. We choose placements based on where we think we can contribute positively, as well as based on our members’ interests and passions. For example, students at many of the inner city elementary schools with whom we work don’t have many opportunities to pursue artistic endeavors. The weekly visits by our MAfC teams give these students a chance to explore and engage their creative sides. Our work with Inasmuch House and the Good Shepherd Centre began more recently, based on our members’ passion to bring our work to children who stay at these local shelters.
What prompted the start of your club? What was the inspiration behind your initiative?
MAfC was started around eight years ago by a small group of students who just wanted to bring their own passion for the arts to students in the local community. At that time there were really no other opportunities to do so, and so MAfC was born.
How do the children react to your presence? Do you notice a positive change in the children with every visit?
The best part of MAfC is seeing the smiles on the faces of the children every week; I know it sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Our teams are like special guests that come every week, so the children are always excited when we come in, and eager to find out what activity they’ll be doing that week. Over the course of our visits — and often even after a single one — we definitely notice some positive changes and growth in the children. Some of them may learn to tie knots or cut in a straight line for the first time. Over time they begin to discover their creative sides, and many of them are so proud that they’re beaming when they finish their craft for the week.
Why do you think the club has been so successful?
Our club has been growing steadily: we now have more volunteers than ever before, and in response, have expanded our number of placements. I think that part of what makes MAfC successful is the fact that it provides opportunities to students who are passionate about what we do to be fully engaged in the process. Our members design the arts and music curricula that all teams follow, and each team works together before every placement to prepare the activity. We are not a club that just asks members to show up to a placement; our members are more involved and invested in what we do. Most of all, though, I think we are lucky to have a vision that resonates with so many students who are all passionate about what we do.
If you would enjoy bringing some artistic fun to children, email firstname.lastname@example.org.