Jeanette Gribben '02


art from the heart

%831%left%For Jeanette Gribben '02, teaching art is not just a way to make a living. It's a way to make a difference.

Gribben works with the ArtREACH program (Reconnecting and Educating homeless Adolescents through Creativity and Hope) in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The program offers homeless and low-income children in grades K-8 hands-on training and experience. "It's not arts and crafts," Gribben explained, "but fine arts. We do watercolors class, painting, drawing , and we study multicultural art. ... I'm teaching them my passions."

A native of Caracas, Venezuela, Gribben spent four summers as art director at a summer camp in New York and graduated from Colby in 2002 as an art major with a studio concentration. She moved to New York City and worked at a before- and after-school program for children from low-income families. After a teaching hiatus from 2003 to 2004, Gribben relocated to Florida and taught in a preschool serving children from much wealthier backgrounds.

%832%right%It wasn't until she changed jobs that she realized her true motivation wasn't just teaching art, but using art to make positive changes in children's lives.

ArtREACH has two program sites, each with its own art teacher, homework teacher, and a counselor who visits once a week. Gribben's site serves approximately 30 children, with activities each afternoon and a monthly visit to a local museum.

Gribben strives to give each student as relevant and as moving an experience as possible, she said, designing lessons and projects to help children from remarkably diverse backgrounds feel more in touch with their heritages. For example, February was Black History Month, so Gribben led her young artists through an exploration of African-American art and its roots. The field trips not only strengthen the children's connections to figures from history, she says, but also provide students with a multifaceted perspective into the world of cultural art.

"They're not just seeing it in a book, but seeing it firsthand," Gribben said. January was Egyptian Art month at ArtREACH, she said, and until they began studying, most kids "thought mummies were made out of toilet paper."

The program is funded almost entirely through grants and is a joint effort of the Young at Art Children's Museum, the Salvation Army, and the Broward County school board. Other funds or in-kind support come from various organizations, including the museum, Nabisco, the Florida State Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Peacock Foundation. Though the program gets a great deal of generous support, said Gribben, "it's never enough."

Gribben's fiery determination stems from her realization that the homeless population in the United States is not what one might expect. "I see the faces of who this affects, and it's not dirty old bums; it's children and mothers and families. Forty percent of the country's homeless are children," she said. "These kids have nothing to do with why they're in that situation." ArtREACH, however, "gives these kids hope and motivation , and a positive environment where they can grow and learn to express themselves."

With intensity and passion, Gribben outlined her mission: "I work with these kids, and they need more people to donate their time, their money, and their resources. It's something I think we can fix and we can solve."

,Aimee Jack '04