Amidst a pile of crayons, markers, paints and numerous pieces of card-stock paper canvasses, Juleen Jones has made her mark in a creative way for the kids and families that use parks throughout Boston – including Paris Street Playground each Friday this month.
Jones, an art major who graduated from Monserrat College in the 1990s, has been a full-time professional artist in Greater Boston for many years, but only in the last four years did she realize she had the “gift” to teach art to young people.
The opportunity presented itself through the Artist in Residence program that takes place in public parks across the city.
“A friend of mine was offered the job about four years ago, but he knew this was right up my alley because I had enjoyed working with kids,” Jones, 43, said. “I have a professional painting company called Creative Soul Painting, and I’ve had a painting business for 20-plus years. However, l love working with kids and being around them. It’s great to be outside working with the kids and their parents on art. Kids are great to teach because they grasp it quickly. If they can grasp it and understand what I’m teaching them, that’s an incredible feeling for me and a great learning experience for them.”
Jones and the other Artist in Residence, Cardrienne Turner, travel from Eastie to the South End to Hyde Park and Jamaica Plain – and everywhere in between – throughout the months of July and August.
Parks Commissioner Chris Cook said the program is open to everyone age 3-10 in neighborhood parks.
“Artists in Residence is our free summer series that brings hands-on arts and crafts workshops for children ages 3-10 to neighborhood parks and playgrounds through August 17,” said Cook. “Kids can come for all or part of the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. sessions and we provide all the materials and instruction.”
Typically, they will set up shop right in the park, with a small sign reading ‘Free Art Classes in the Park’ and some materials.
The program can be as simple as doing some artsy crafts, or as complicated as Jones teaching older kids about mixing paints.
And all of it happens under the shade of trees and amidst the chirping of birds in several of the City’s urban parks.
Jones, who also does the adult watercolor workshops for the Parks Department, said there are a lot of kids in the city now, and it is a pleasure to work with them.
“I do enjoy going out to different parks and seeing parks in Boston I have never been to,” she said. “For people, it’s refreshing to make art outside. It takes them out of their normal environment. In a park, things move at a different speed, and when you create outside, it becomes very therapeutic for children and adults. It’s a good program. There are so many young parents in Boston and so many kids. I can’t believe the numbers of kids. The program for kids is growing and the watercolor program is growing for adults.”
As Jones instructed a few young children last week, she said that the things the little ones make, or the instruction given to the pre-teens, in the parks is something she is glad she can pass on.
“As an artist, I never really knew I had the gift to teach, but I’ve discovered that here with this program,” she said. “It’s good for the community and good for me as an artist. Whether they are learning how to draw grass or learning how to mix colors, they’re taking something with them – and doing it outside in a beautiful park.”
The Artist in Residence Program takes place every Friday in East Boston this month at Paris Street Playground. Artists will be there on July 20 and 27.