Pearlyn Salvador, head of the museum’s Art to Go outreach program, holds up a pair of leather sandals at an after-school session at Palolo Elementary. “Can anyone guess where these are from?” “Eskimos!” shouts one rambunctious kid. Pearlyn explains that they’re from Syria. She holds up a pair of wood Dutch clogs. “Where are these from?” “Las Vegas!”
Sounds like a “Saturday Night Live skit,” but serious stuff goes on at these sessions. As funds for arts education in public schools dries up, the Academy’s programs such as Art to Go and the Ambassador program are often the only art exposure Hawai‘i kids get. Can you imagine going through school and never making a misshapen bowl for Mother’s Day or a handprint Turkey to mark Thanksgiving? I can’t. And yet, that’s what is happening. I got a posse of Academy staff and ARTafterDARK organizers (since Starlight Ball funds go to Art to Go) to check out Art to Go in action. It was an eye-opening day.

Art to Go is a partnership between the Academy and Big Brothers Big Sisters. At this session, the “Bigs” who worked with the Palolo kids were students from Saint Louis School and Sacred Hearts Academy. So through Art to Go, not only do grade schoolers get to keep out of after-school trouble with art projects, but high schoolers get valuable experience—many of them are considering careers in education or child psychology.

Pearlyn’s plan for the day was for kids to be shoe designers—they created footwear out of clay. She kicked off this session with the global show-and-tell of shoes borrowed from the Academy’s lending collection, a treasure trove of cultural artifacts. Kids also got to examine Philippines wood-carved mules, Japanese geta and Native American mocassins. Then Pearlyn demonstrated clay basics, showing kids how to score the clay’s surface with a wood tool so that pieces of the “shoe” will stick together. Then the children paired off with the Bigs and got to work.

At a table, brothers Layton and Brandon Lau, in second and fourth grade respectively, knead their brown slabs of clay under the supervision of BBBS case manager Austin Oney and Sacred Hearts senior Kayu Chan. She participates in Art to Go partly to fulfil the 25 hours of community service Sacred Hearts requires of its students, but also because she’s “interested in human behavior.” “I know that this is the time kids soak up the most from adults,” says Chan, as she gently and patiently guides Layton. “I want to make a difference.”

Wailani Nahinu, a fourth grader, methodically shapes a stylish pump next to Sacred Hearts sophomore Richel Cole. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,” says Cole, who has taken a lot of art classes. Nahinu so carefully works her clay that I ask her if she does things such as make lei at home. She wordlessly nods her head. “Your shoe is beautiful. Maybe you can study fashion design at school when you get older and become a shoe designer!” She allows herself a brief, tiny smile.

Saint Louis senior Teejay Tom, who also plans on being a teacher, worked with Kewin Hyunh (pictured), that rambunctious eskimo-obsessed student. The second grader vibrates in his chair. He’s bright and witty but has a hard time focusing.
I squat down to his level and ask, “Do you get in a lot of fights?”
“Why?” Teejay asks him, saying that’s not good.
“Cause I’m a bad boy.”
“Does this class make you feel calmer?” I ask.

Photographs by Sabrina Velazquez�