Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

For kids, art is not simply for art's sake

President Barack Obama will soon receive a poster of a wall-sized mural painted by kids at Community Stepping Stones, an upstart art school in Tampa's Sulphur Springs neighborhood.

The mural reflects the dichotomy between the beautiful blue gulf before the oil spill and the dark, despair-filled nature of the waters since BP's Deepwater Horizon accident.

The kids mixed handcrafted paintings of fish and jellyfish with words expressing their feelings about the pre- and post-spill Gulf. On the left, you see "clean," "happy" and "hope." On the right, it's "betrayed," "shocked" and "murderers."

"When I saw whales dying, I started to cry a little bit," said Quinton Camp, 14.

"When I found out about the oil spill, I was really hurt," added Laryanna Burns, 13.

Clearly, the mural illustrates so much more than how the spill has impacted the gulf. It's a communication vehicle, a portrait of emotion and a civics lesson.

Whether this becomes the first in many lessons learned by these students or the end of their art exploration rests in part with the Hillsborough County Commission, which holds a budget workshop at 1:30 p.m. today and a public hearing at 6 p.m. today.

As Times performing arts critic John Fleming reported earlier this month, the county plans to eliminate funding to the Arts Council of Hillsborough County for cultural development grants.

In the current fiscal year, the council distributed more than $300,000 to 25 organizations, including Community Stepping Stones.

What do you risk by not funding such institutions? Ask Yvenel Casseide.

Casseide, 18, knows all too well about how art can enhance young minds. When he came to Stepping Stones at age 12, he found himself grappling with the challenges of his hardscrabble upbringing in Sulphur Springs.

In one of his earliest self-portraits, Casseide displays an uncanny ability to handle various colors. The multiple shades of brown he infused in his face shows a deft touch, but his developing art skills tell only half the story.

A burning tree dominates the background of his portrait. The flames, in hues of orange and red and even green and blue, appear to be leaping from his hair. It reflects the anger about his life at the time.

"I had a lot going on personally with school, parents, home," Casseide said. "I was passionately angry."

A more recent self-portrait shows a forlorn Casseide staring into the horizon, a moon rising in the background. Or is it a sun setting?

"It's a distorted ambiguity," Casseide explained. "I'm looking spaced out because I'm not sure about my future."

Casseide's uncertainty has given way to aspirations of attending the Ringling College of Art and Design after he graduates from Blake High School next spring. Through art, he's channeled raw emotions into a positive vision.

I recognize that every group receiving money from the county faces scrutiny and a possible reduction. Tough times demand it, but as I've written before about other programs, the board must weigh the impact of such cuts.

Cutting the arts is not simply reducing the number of finger-painting pictures kids hang on the refrigerator. It's eliminating a tool our youth can use to save themselves.

That's all I'm saying.

For kids, art is not simply for art's sake 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 10:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies shut out at Pittsburgh


    PITTSBURGH — The Rowdies lost their first USL game in nearly a month, 1-0 to Pittsburgh on Thursday night.

  2. Trump reveals that he didn't record Comey after all


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump declared Thursday he never made and doesn't have recordings of his private conversations with ousted former FBI director James Comey, ending a monthlong guessing game that he started with a cryptic tweet and that ensnared his administration in yet more controversy.

    President Donald Trump said Thursday that he didn’t record his conversations with James Comey.
  3. Lightning fans, don't get attached to your first-round draft picks

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — When Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announces his first-round pick tonight in the amateur draft at No. 14, he'll invite the prospect onto the stage for the once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.

    Tampa Bay Lightning left wing Jonathan Drouin (27) eludes  Montreal Canadiens left wing Phillip Danault (24) during the second period of Wednesday???‚??„?s (12/28/16) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens at the Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Investigation Discovery TV show profiles 2011 Landy Martinez murder case


    The murder of a St. Petersburg man will be featured this week on a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery.

    Jose Adame sits in a Pinellas County courtroom during his 2016 trial and conviction for first-degree murder. Adame was convicted of first-degree murder last year for torturing and then executing his boyfriend as he pleaded for his life in 2011. Now it will be featured in a new true crime series Murder Calls on Investigation Discovery. The episode will air on June 26 at 9 p.m. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]
  5. Uhuru mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel protests exclusion from debate


    ST. PETERSBURG — Jesse Nevel, the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement candidate for mayor, on Thursday demanded that he be allowed to participate in a July 25 televised debate between incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and challenger Rick Baker.

    Mayoral candidate Jesse Nevel holds a news conference outside the headquarters of the Tampa Bay Times on Thursday to protest his exclusion from the mayoral debate. Nevel is a member of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement.