My name is Alex Pitts and I’m currently interning at the Boys & Girls Club of Bellevue working on arts education and all-ages screen printing. Primarily, the Bellevue Boys & Girls Club provides resources to adolescents and teens in the community, such as mentorship, academic aid and summertime lunches. In addition to these services, the center organizes creative and career building programs; this is where arts education and screen printing fits in. A few times a week, the studio is open to youth in the community to ‘drop-in’ and have a safe, positive place to do creative work such as drawing, painting or sculpture. Other times during the week, there is a structured screen printing program that allows youth to learn the craft, improve their skills, and work on independent projects.
My internship role helps facilitate both programs during their operation hours, as well as work together with my supervisor to develop future curriculum for the screen printing program. This means helping kids work on their art, providing help with techniques specific to each craft, and providing mentorship while talking with them. Drop-in hours change from one day to the next depending on what the people who show up are interested in. Some days everyone working in the studio is very self-motivated and just needs help finding particular materials. Other days, we all work on projects together and I am just as involved with the art making as I am with the facilitating.
When the studio isn’t open, my supervisor and I talk about what went well and what could be improved about recent drop-in times. We also brainstorm ideas for improving the space, finding what supplies need to be replenished and thinking of what we could add to the studio that would help everyone work better.
My favorite parts of the week are when we hold screen printing meetings. This is when I meet with teenagers in order to improve printing craft and complete projects together as a team. During a typical meeting, we usually split the group into two parts: one for the beginners who want to learn how to print and work on their skills, and a second for those who know their way around the press. My supervisor and I both facilitate these meetings, meaning that I get a chance to work with all skill levels of teens. When I work with the more novice people, my role becomes that of a teacher; we practice techniques together, while I provide tips and instruction on the process. Conversely, when I work with the more intermediate group we all work together to design, develop and print the project on either paper or textile. Both roles are great to work as, I especially love getting to teach something I am passionate about in a ‘hands on’ way.
Working with the Boys & Girls Club has been a great mix of community building and teaching art thus far. I’m very excited to keep finding new projects to work on alongside such talented and creative youth.