The walls of the teen center at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club are covered with colorful artwork. Step inside the workroom and it resembles a gallery, different kinds of paintings and drawings tacked to the walls, pencils and paint brushes strewn about. This is the result of creative minds at work. In the middle of the room sits a small studio, equipped with a microphone, computers and keyboard. Next to that are lights and a green screen. It's not a big space, but it's the home base to some big ideas.
On any given day, you can find some students mixing watercolors while others step into the studio and mix original lyrics with beats. Guiding them through the creative process is the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club multimedia director, Silas Clark. His passion for the arts is infectious. A rap artist with several songs under his belt, he is just as excited as the kids to work on projects. "The arts are so undervalued in the academic world right now, but it makes such a big impact on the youth," said Clark. He recalls how much the program has grown from just a few supplies to a full working studio. "We had some little broken down computer in here with a Guitar Hero microphone and entry-level software. We made recordings, but they didn't sound very good," said Clark.
In the beginning, the students practiced writing and recording songs, mostly parodies. "Our first song we ever did was about how much we love chicken," said Victor Nkwocha, 17. The parodies led to more serious songs with fancier beats, requiring better equipment. The students asked for a studio and got one. Thanks to the Taco Bell Graduate to Go program and Mark Wahlberg, the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club received a grant to finance the studio.
The art room has become a popular hang out. "A lot of the kids that come here have different disabilities. They gravitate towards this room" said Clark. JoAnn Hodges, 18, who suffers from schizophrenia, remembers her first day at the Lawrenceville Boys & Girls Club. "When I first got here I was really depressed and sad. I didn't trust anybody," said Hodges."Mr. Silas came up to me and said 'hi.' I came in and started doing art and really got into it...I felt like he was somebody I could really talk to." Several months of paintings and drawings later Hodges is good...really good. Her work was featured in the Youth Art Gallery at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, along with other Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta members. "They didn't recognize her art based on her struggles. They didn't know. They just recognized her work," said Clark. "I never really thought that I could do anything, but when I started doing art I got a lot of compliments. All of a sudden my art was at the airport...things I never thought would happen," said Hodges. "Art is about acceptance. It’s about real diversity," said Clark. "People think that diversity is just skin tone. Diversity is way deeper than that."
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