St. Joseph family organizes ‘Art in the Park’ to share love of creating

When Aquiliana Wolf’s family lived in Madison, Wisconsin, she enjoyed the Art Cart, a vehicle that visited parks near her and where she could discover creative art projects for a few hours each week. The Art Cart was a community education program open to all.

The family moved to St. Joseph in 2017 and became parishioners at St. Joseph Church there.

“I love art,” Aquiliana, now age 14, said. “I babysit often and hang out with little kids. When my mom and I brainstormed ways to volunteer this summer, we remembered the Art Cart’s fun projects and thought we could do that here.”

So she and her mom, Lisa Wolf, organized their own free “Art in the Park” for children ages 3 to elementary school to be held at a variety of parks in St. Joseph.  Each Thursday from 9 to 11 a.m. throughout the summer would feature a different art activity.  Aquiliana’s friends from St. John’s Preparatory School and her sister Mireya, age 11, would assist.

The first event was June 9 at Centennial Park. About 38 children designed butterflies, blending the colors with water. On June 16, they created characters from yarn.

“The kids loved doing art and being outside,” Aquiliana said. “Some asked to do a second project. They thanked me and said they couldn’t wait to see what we’d be doing next week.”

Lisa agreed. “The children liked having young people teaching them,” she said. “The adults, grandparents and nannies who came with the youngsters were very complimentary about Art in the Park. They enjoyed engaging with their kids on the projects and working together. They could talk to others while supervising the youngest family members on the playground. My three young sons have a lot of energy and need open space and time to run.”

Lisa explained their planning: They chose easy, free-flowing compositions that children could complete in about 15 minutes and take home. They would teach children continuously as they arrived, not at set times. Some might want to try two designs, so they’d need double the number of supplies. Open-ended materials like blank paper and markers as well as coloring books and sticker books would be available for children who wanted other choices. To help those frustrated with an overstimulating environment, they placed supplies in baggies for them to take home. Some children might need a play break before finishing, so they selected parks with playgrounds.

The St. Joseph Jaycees agreed to fund some of their supplies, and the City of St. Joseph gave permission to use the parks.

Isabel Schwinghammer, 15, a student at St. John’s Prep School in Collegeville and a friend of Aquiliana, helps a child with an art project June 16 at Klinefelter Park in St. Joseph. (Dianne Towalski / The Central Minnesota Catholic)

“Art should just be fun so we picked simple projects that wouldn’t be stressful or make the children feel judged,” Lisa said. “Kids can start over, if they want to. We want them to feel free to create and be imaginative while making art with friends.”

“Creating art is an interesting way to share your faith,” Aquiliana added. “God tells us to spread our faith to others — Art in the Park is how I share what I love with young people, so they can learn to love God and art as much as I do. The sunrise and sunset are some of the most beautiful art displays you will ever see. Sharing art with others, connecting with people, loving our neighbors and creating a community of peace is what God wants us to do.”

Every Thursday this summer, children will try a variety of media and skills to create unique artworks, like paper stained-glass and bookmarks. Painting rocks is one that Aquiliana is excited about.

“Kids can bring rocks they’ve found and we’ll have some too. We’ll paint examples for inspiration if they want to see how their design might look.”

Lisa said, “By encouraging children to enjoy art and be outside with friends while parents visit with neighbors, Art in the Park builds a strong community. That’s part of the Benedictine tradition of service, the love of learning, community and hospitality that my husband and I learned about in college — I graduated from the College of St. Benedict and Saul from St. John’s University.

“Art in the Park is peaceful and inclusive, welcoming every family member, every age and culture, to create a beautiful thing that speaks its own language.”

IF YOU GO:

Art in the Park is from 9-11 a.m. on Thursdays in St. Joseph. It’s free.

  • Centennial Park: July 7, Aug. 4
  • Klinefelter Park: July 14, Aug. 11
  • Millstream Park: June 23, July 21, Aug. 18
  • Northland Park: June 30, July 28. Aug. 25

Children should bring their own snacks and water. If it rains, a session will be canceled.

Author: Nikki Rajala

Nikki Rajala is a writer/copy editor for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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