Celebrating 20 COLORful years

COLORS—an outreach program by Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM)—might be 20 years old, but it is still a kid at heart. To recognize and celebrate this coming of age for a program that provides free art instruction to at-risk children, an art exhibit of their creative efforts will be at SAM June 11 through July 27. At no cost, the public is invited to view what kids can do when given a little instruction, encouragement, and supplies. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. at Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg.

(Poster image, right by Maddie Davis, 8th grade, Cowpens Middle School.)

Since 1993, COLORS has reached thousands of children (ages 6 to 18) from low-to-moderate income families. It has provided a safe place where kids can go after school and have the creative freedom to paint, draw, make ceramics, work with the digital arts and do countless other forms of visual art. They are provided with a studio, professional supplies and professional instruction. The main studio is at Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg and is open year-round, Monday through Thursday, 3-6 p.m. However, the need and interest have both grown during this time, and now there are 10 other COLORS satellite studios throughout the county in churches, schools and other community gathering places. One of the biggest challenges has always been transportation: getting the kids to the downtown studio. The solution: create more studios in their micro-communities.

The program’s mission and purpose were obvious: provide the ways and means for kids to be creative. The end result has been art that has stunned the world and children who grew up to be better citizens. “Every child is a success story at COLORS,” Laura Pinkley, the program’s founder said. “Each participant who comes to COLORS, rather than going home after school to watch television or play in an unsupervised environment, is safer in our studios. But we also have more long-term success stories: Former students who are now in their 20s and 30s have become professionals in our community, some even in the field of art.”

Michael Smith, Skeet

Michael Smith, “Skeet”

The program was modeled after a similar one in Harlem in New York City. It was a success there, and when it came south, the success followed. In the early years, the program was cited in Time magazine, it was plugged twice on national television, and the kids’ artwork made its way into showplaces around the country. One piece even hung in the White House for a year after winning the national Congressional Art Competition. It was produced by Michael Smith when he was a high school student. He was later hired as an instructor in the program. The image in this piece is of an older, African-American man standing on a street corner, holding a liquor bottle. “It was one of those pieces of art that was both technically amazing and conceptually mind blowing,” Pinkley said. “The impact of the artwork was tremendous. It was amazing to realize that this student had that much insight into his environment and that he could convey the emotion and sense of place.” After its year in the White House, the Museum purchased the art, entitled “Skeet,” to add to its permanent collection.

Even though Pinkley has retired, she still supports the program financially and with time and effort. She works on a regular basis with Angie Shuman, the current director of COLORS, who is responsible for its continued success. Together, with a committee, they are now heading up the 20th anniversary celebration activities. Saturday, June 15, the Museum will host a fundraising cocktail party in its gallery, where guests will be surrounded by children’s art. All proceeds from this event will go to the COLORS program. The cost is $25 per person. Thursday, June 20, during Artwalk, there will be a free public reception 5-9 p.m. Both events will be in SAM and will include the exhibit.

To make reservations for the fundraiser or for more information, please call Shuman at (864) 278-9673.