By Brandi Simmons
While visiting Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church one day, Pastor Mary Moss noticed a flurry of activity involving neighborhood children. Interested, she spoke with the church leaders and discovered LSU Museum of Art’s Neighborhood Arts Project, or NAP, was the source.
Pastor Moss saw that NAP exposed children to the arts, offering another means of expression. By bringing the program out into the neighborhoods, it creates an opportunity for children who may not have transportation or whose parents are not available to bring them. An added benefit: there was a void of other neighborhood programs like this. Seeing the value of engaging children in this way, she reached out to the museum to bring the program to the Eden Park community, the neighborhood her church serves.
Since NAP began serving the Eden Park area, Moss has seen several children develop an interest in the arts, often seeking out ways to further their newfound skills. But when talking to parents, she learned that the children are embracing more than just their artistic side. “[NAP] helped to further other disciplines that they were teaching such as taking care of one another and working with children from other areas. This was great!”
NAP’s impact on one child in the community still stands out to her the most. “A parent of an autistic boy was confounded by how her child found his space, claimed it, and stayed focused. She was amazed at the effect the program on him. He, of course, hated when the time was over.”
While Moss is pleased with the success NAP has had in Eden Park, she sees room for expansion. “I really think this program should be extended to other neighborhoods, especially where poverty is prevalent.” In partnering with additional neighborhood churches, NAP could offer extended art camps or bring a group of churches together to continue impacting the community.
“Relationship, fellowship with others, and character building certainly was a positive for our community-wide program,” Moss says.
Brandi Simmons is LSU MOA's communications coordinator.