Bixby Park Arts Program: Moving The Hearts Of Children • Long Beach Post

9:30am | Kelly Curry is one of those people I seem to see everywhere. Whenever groups of energized and enthusiastic creative types gather for a good cause, she’s there. Her positivity is infectious, and her passion for hard work is humbling and inspirational.

She is the Director of Programming and Development for the Living Love Foundation, which creates opportunities for safe and creative expression for at-risk kids. She’s currently ramping up a new program, Imagine That Imagine That, which will be centered at Bixby Park, located between Broadway, Ocean, Junipero, and Cherry. We began our conversation by talking about the origins of the program.

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Kelly: It happened pretty organically, actually. I’m a resident of the Bixby Park community and, over the course of kids’ Spring Break from school, I had an opportunity to witness some pretty not-so-nice behavior by kids traveling to and from the beach. I thought ‘Wow, these kids are fighting in the street, frolicking amorously, to put it lightly, and doing things that seemed not so thought out.’

I realized the foundation could do a program for them this Summer that could re-orient their thoughts, give them something more than just heading to the beach and heading home and causing havoc for themselves and the community on the way.

So we started working on it from that place, and it’s been a great process. We got with the City and had some meetings. They’ve said we can use the park for our multidisciplinary arts program and, in a meeting, Misty Muse (LBCreative!) came up with the name.

Sander: Can you talk a bit about the partnerships you’ve established for the program?

Kelly: The immediate links were with organizations in our circle, orgs that have been working diligently on the ground with Living Love on various events and programs for a while. Those are LBCreative!, Catalyst, Green Long Beach and Pedal Movement.

We’ve also reached out to Infinite Yoga to help out with Yoga techniques during the program, and their associate Dustin who is a raw food chef. Flower of Life will also be working with the children around rebounding, obstacle courses and the simple joys of fun play, games with rules they’re allowed to make up and explore as they go along.

As far as business support, the business community here has been wonderful. We’re working to put together a fundraiser and launch for the 10th of July and that gives local businesses in this beautiful community an opportunity to step up and help out. So right now we’re talking to the 4th Street Business Association, and the Broadway Business Association, to see what kind of support, fiscally or otherwise, they can lend.

I am, and have always been, inspired by the support of the Arts Council for Long Beach. Craig Watson stepped up early, offered some resources, and that helped me see that “hey, this may not be such a bad idea.”

Sander: Tell me about the specifics?

Kelly: We have a staple program that involves hands-on visual art, a step removed from arts and crafts, because it focuses on using every day household recycled materials. We’re talking about tissue paper rolls, odds and ends of fabric, buttons, leather string, all kinds of things that people don’t look twice at. In this program the kids are invited to just have fun and create whatever they feel like.

It’s exciting to me because I’ve never seen such creativity flower from what would seem like bits and pieces of nothing. They have fun and make some beautiful, worthwhile projects with these things, but it also reorients them to the use and re-use of found items, discarded items. My hope is that it will prepare them to survive in a world where recycling and reuse is not just in vogue, but is a necessity, like the old days when i was a kid.

We also have some wonderful fine artists, like Maribel Hernandez, from our Ventura camp, who will be coming out to work with the children on her lines and circles workshops, helping them re-see that basically everything we interact with every day is comprised of lines and circles.

The cover of our first Kids Love Arts magazine is a product of this workshop. It is a self portrait done by a 6 year old and it’s simply stunning.

We’re also incorporating the culinary arts through exposure to raw food clinics, which is very exciting, and also some gardening so the kids can understand the wellspring of creativity that exists in nature.

Sander: You are also seeking the participation of local artists to volunteer in the program, is that correct? What kinds of qualifications are you requiring?

Kelly: I’ve been very impressed with the spirit of volunteerism amongst artists here in Long Beach. There are a lot of artists here in the area of Bixby Park, so we’re asking them to come, as visiting artists, on an afternoon of their choosing.

The program is Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11-5, so we’re asking artists to come and work with the kids in their area of expertise. It could be setting up an exhibit of their work for the day; or working hands on with photography or clay; or hand crocheting. I think the greatest qualification is a willingness to share and give back to your community.

Sander: You’re also organizing a fundraiser on the 10th. Can you talk about your goals for that?

Kelly: The fundraiser is a chance to launch what we hope will be an ongoing program for Bixby. We want to relate to the community the work of Living Love Foundation and invite the community to be a part of it. We also want to share the idea of collective participation in a way that is fun, invigorating, good looking, and exciting.

Of course, raising money to run the program and supply whatever we need to make the kids feel good and want to be a part of it is important to.

I’m most excited about bringing the community into this conversation about arts and kids. That’s my greatest inspiration, because it can be done, it’s time to move from looking at government and traditional educational models and take it to the street. This program does that. It moves beyond talk and, to me, once we do that we’ve started something that will take on a life of its own. We’re working together to the move the hearts of children and, in turn, ours will be moved as well.

Sander: Can you talk, briefly, about the Living Love Foundation?

Kelly: Living Love came out of a natural desire to continue the work of my mother, continue sharing her vision for the world and children after she passed away, pretty suddenly, from cancer almost five years ago.

We started out in Ventura County with the children of farm workers and did some programs in New York, supported programs in Post Katrina New Orleans. The idea is that once children have some exposure to the arts, artistic environments, and their own creative process they will have the tools to tackle anything in life.

Art heals. It is transformative and positive, and we wanted to share this idea with as many children and communities as possible, in a real, meaningful, tangible way. We try to meet communities, and kids, where they are and build through the arts. It is a beautiful, magical journey we’re on.

If you want to participate in or otherwise support these efforts, please contact Kelly via e- mail.

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