Saturday, August 18, 2018
News Roundup

Ten years later, Sulphur Springs nonprofit continues to grow and teach art to at-risk youth

TAMPA — Sculptures hung from the ceiling inside the art gallery at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City. Bright shades of pink, blue, green and yellow reflected onto the wall. From the gallery door, the pieces looked like they were made of glass.

But a few steps closer under the light revealed intricate works of art sculpted from junk.

After weeks of learning about the plankton living and making oxygen in the waterways around Tampa Bay, the teens at Community Stepping Stones created sculptures of the tiny, multicelled life forms out of old plastic bottles and caps.

Community Stepping Stones, a nonprofit that teaches art to at-risk kids in Sulphur Springs, has held shows in the HCC gallery since the organization began in 2003. It's grown from less than a dozen students to almost 200. It's moved from a church basement and a few other temporary locations to a three-and-a-half-acre campus on the Hillsborough River in 2010.

"It has been exactly what we are called, community stepping stones," said teacher/mentor Lakeema Matthew, 24, who began as a student there when she was 14. "It's been stepping stones, the way it's evolved and gotten bigger. It's exciting to be a part of it."

The show at HCC called "Beautiful Beasties," and another show done by children ages 6-12 called "THINK eARTh," on display at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, are part of its Science=Art program. The program uses both disciplines to teach kids about recycling and preserving the environment.

In the past few years, the organization has increased the programs it offers for teens, including job training and computer skills. Teens work as student assistants. They help at the campus and exhibits. They learn about art, but also about responsibility and real-life skills like getting up for work in the morning and how to fill out a timecard.

This year, Tampa philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel also donated funding to the organization for laptops and campus-wide Wi-Fi. None of the teens had computers at home, said Sigrid Tidmore, who became executive director of Community Stepping Stones in 2010.

"How do you compete?" Tidmore said. "How do you get out of poverty if you're not even competent with computers?"

Now the nonprofit computer training facility Computer Mentors sends someone to the campus once a week to teach the students basic computer skills, and they can earn a refurbished desktop computer for their homes. Community Stepping Stones has started teaching them Photoshop, digital photography and content development, and plans to add web development in 2014.

It's a mix of practical skills and creative thinking meant to give some stability to kids whose lives sometimes aren't that stable.

"If you're not eating well, if there's chaos in your life, going to school and trying to compete academically doesn't work," Tidmore said.

They use visual arts as a pathway to help the students gain academic, social and job prep skills in an approach called arts integrated programming, Tidmore said. Programs like Science=Art get both sides of their brains — the left, analytical side and the more creative right side — working together.

The teens who worked on "Beautiful Beasties" took classes with Dr. Bridgette Froeschke, a microbiologist and oceanographer at the USF Florida Center for Community Design & Research.

They went to beaches, took water samples and studied them in the labs at the University of Tampa. They used scientific pictures of different types of plankton from the classes to create the sculptures.

Student assistant Alonzo Jackson, 17, helped pick out smaller sculptures to hang from the ceiling at the gallery. He helps install artwork, touches up paint, carries things to Tidmore's car, and whatever else they need him to do.

The Blake High School senior started taking classes at Community Stepping Stones a few years ago.

"It's a good mixture of race, culture, everything," he said. "It's a really rejuvenating, spiritual place for me. I feel ready to relax and do some art."

Jackson's excitement about the "Beautiful Beasties" reflects what he's gained from the program. The self-described "21st century hippie" hopes people enjoy the artwork, but take something away from it, too.

"I want them to understand the purpose of why we do this. We don't do it just for a show, we do it to trigger people's minds," Jackson said. "All this plastic could have been floating in the ocean."

Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2453.

   
Comments
For starters: Rays at Red Sox, facing an old friend

For starters: Rays at Red Sox, facing an old friend

The Rays will try again against the majors-best Red Sox tonight, and they will be facing an old friend in former ace LHP David Price.This will be Price's 14th outing against his original team since being traded in July 2014, and he is 4-4, 3.32 thus ...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Remember all that Rays hate?

Remember all that Rays hate?

BOSTON —Nope, this is not going to be the worst Rays team of all time, as a certain writer for a certain website that you may happen to be reading right now suggested in April was a real possibility. Not going to be second worst, third, even bo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies find body in burning vehicle near Disney World miniature golf course

Deputies find body in burning vehicle near Disney World miniature golf course

A body was found in a burning vehicle near a Disney World miniature golf course early Saturday, according to WKMG News 6 Orlando.Authorities were initially called to a vehicle fire about 4 a.m. at Disney’s Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf Course, 120...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested, too, in aftermath of Hudson drug shootout

Girlfriend of murder suspect arrested, too, in aftermath of Hudson drug shootout

HUDSON — The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office made a second arrest Saturday in the aftermath of a drug-related shootout Wednesday night that left one man dead and a woman critically injured.Deputies arrested Alexas Marie Gregas, 19, of Hudson, on charge...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Levy County man, 53, killed trying to pass truck north of Inverness

Levy County man, 53, killed trying to pass truck north of Inverness

INVERNESS — A 53-year-old Levy County man died when he collided with a Mack truck while trying to pass it north of Inverness, the Florida Highway Patrol said.Claude Pepper Blount Jr. was headed south on U.S. 41 near Overdrive Circle about 1:50 p.m. F...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police: Motorcyclist hospitalized after crash at Sheffield Lake Park in St. Petersburg

Police: Motorcyclist hospitalized after crash at Sheffield Lake Park in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — A motorcycle driver suffered serious injuries early Saturday when he lost control and crashed at Sheffield Lake Park, according to the St. Petersburg Police Department.Robert Douglas Blume, 47, was driving north along 49th Street N o...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

Preseason football: Hillsborough 29, East Lake 23

TAMPA — When moving on to your third football program in four seasons, it helps to have a familiar face on the scene to help make things click faster.For Hillsborough quarterback Charlie Dean, fresh from playing for Tampa Catholic last fall, that per...
Published: 08/18/18
Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

Romano: A fresh start for Florida to protect abused children

The worst job in Florida is available, once again.Mike Carroll has announced his pending resignation as secretary of the Department of Children and Families, giving someone else the privilege to be an underfunded, second-guessed punching bag. For no ...
Published: 08/18/18
In Clearwater, this woman is crafting a unique baseball career

In Clearwater, this woman is crafting a unique baseball career

CLEARWATER — The voice of the Clearwater Threshers grew up a couple hours down the coast, listening to Dewayne Staats and making annual family trips to the Trop.The giveaway to what Kirsten Karbach would become, however, should have been her baseball...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Putting a face to the name: Picture of Marine killed in Vietnam one of the missing

Putting a face to the name: Picture of Marine killed in Vietnam one of the missing

Private Ruben Bell Jr. has a name, a rank, a hometown, five service medals and several living family members. For 50 years, though, he has remained a ghost.Bell enlisted in the Marine Corps in July 1967, when he was 19, and arrived in Vietnam that De...
Updated: 7 hours ago