Student-founded community art program reaches new heights

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The 2013-2014 JumpstART crew. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JUMPSTART PROGRAM

Two and a half years ago, art funding across the state of Indiana was at an all-time low. Realizing this, Chelsea Naylor (’14) decided to do something about it.

She started a program last school year that she coined as JumpstART, which meets every first Saturday of the month in Peeler Room 209. The program is open to children in kindergarten through fifth-grade within the Greencastle community.

“It originally was a way to have Bonner [scholars] serve together as a group, but [JumpstART] quickly evolved into a way to answer Indiana’s art funding cut,” Naylor said. “It’s a wonderful thing in the world to have art. I wanted students to have a place to experience that.”

The program features a different art lesson each session. “In the past there has been cave man art, photography, Jackson Pollock, a silent film and actually last Saturday we did Asian art,” Sophomore Emily Mensching said.

Throughout the lesson, the volunteers help the children use what they just learned to make some sort of project. The children are typically there for only about two hours for each session, however once a semester the volunteers hang up all the children’s art in a gallery in the square.

“The children bring their parents and they get to see all their art hung up, just like an actual artist’s art work would be,” Mensching said.

Mensching heard about the program this past summer and fell in love with it, eventually leading to her succeeding Naylor as the new coordinator of the program post Naylor’s graduation.

“I think Emily is going to do an awesome job this year,” Naylor said. “She has a wonderful heart and I’m glad the program is in her hands.”

Mencsching is thrilled as well.

“I love art, but I would say I never really understood art until I started taking classes about it,” Mensching said. “I think this program is an amazing way for kids to learn about art and really get to appreciate it.”

The program had a shaky start, however. “Our very first meeting, September of 2012, we had three students come halfway through,” Naylor said. “We thought we’d failed.”

But she was persistent. As the year went on, she gained more students and received continual help from several DePauw Community Service members and from her fellow Bonner Scholars. By the end of its first year, 19 students were enrolled, and by its second year, that number almost doubled that, bringing in 30 kids.

While the program gives the kids hands-on experience in the arts, it is also a way for DePauw students to burst through the DePauw bubble: to volunteer in and to become a part of the Greencastle community.

“Other than helping kids out, I also think it’s such a good opportunity for students at DePauw,” Mensching said. “Last year made me realize that college might be the only chance I get to really volunteer this much. I think JumpstART is an amazing way to get involved in community service. It’s only a few hours each month and it’s a lot of fun.”

While Naylor certainly launched the program off to a great start, Mensching hopes to continue expanding her legacy.

“Chelsea put a lot of work into the program,” Mensching said. “My goal for JumpstART though is to really help the program grow.”

Mensching encourages every student, not just artists, to get involved.  For those wishing to become a part of the program, Mensching can be reached at JumpstART@depauw.edu.