MACON – Mercer University students in a service-learning course led by Dr. Creighton Rosental began a free, daily after-school arts program in September for residents of the nearby Tindall Heights Homes.
Peach Place aims to provide a means of creative expression and exposure to the arts for children, ages 6-12, who otherwise might have few such opportunities. Daily art classes are led primarily by Mercer students, and in October, the program held an open house as part of the public housing project's Fall Festival, where well over 100 kids created personal works of art.
The goal of Peach Place is not to create artists, but to create a sense of community built on creative expression. Dr. Rosental is a philosophy professor, and the majority of the student volunteers are not art majors, though the students have sought some advice from local artists.
Peach Place was begun with a grant through the University's Research that Reaches Out Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) programming and the donation of rent-free space at the Hester Bivins Youth Center by the Macon Housing Authority.
The pilot grant will sustain Peach Place for a year, but organizers hope to raise additional funds to expand offerings and continue the program beyond the current academic year. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign seeking donations online.
“A number of people have suggested that we seek extra funds from foundations or other sources of substantial money. We may eventually do that, but we decided to seek support for Peach Place from a broad swath of supporters,” said Dr. Rosental. “We would rather have 500 people donate $10 than one donor give everything we need. Peach Place is meant to help build community – to have our program funded directly by the community is a good step in that direction.”
The hope is that these donations will allow the program to take participants on field trips to experience the local arts scene, host arts events for residents of the community, provide healthy snacks for the after-school program, add programming in areas other than the visual arts, increase the number of children who are able to participate and expand the program to other communities in need.
“Through my administrative experience with the program, I have seen days where it is over capacity because of its positive reputation within the community,” said junior Rachel Paul. “As of now, Peach Place can only allow a certain number of students into the program thus limiting its impact. Donations are needed in order to expand and further develop the creative expression taking place at Peach Place.”
“Support raised through crowdfunding is more than financial. It demonstrates that the community cares for these students and the long-lasting benefits that come with creative expression,” added junior Bekah Fulton. “As an instructor, I have seen the ways the grant has funded an environment for students to be inspired, and I look forward to the many ways this campaign will continue to create opportunities for both the participants of the program as well as the volunteers.”