Children's Flag Making Workshop
ARTogether, in partnership with the Center of Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI), hosted a creative flag-making workshop on Wednesday, July 19 for children from refugee families. CERI is a non-profit organization that provides mental health services and other resources for Bay Area refugees. ARTogether recently partnered with CERI to incorporate arts and visual expression as a form of healing, the arts acting as a means to convey experiences, sentiments, and reconciliations of personal, cultural identities. The workshop took place at the organization’s office, a massive green Victorian house located in Oakland, California.
The group of ten participants, including children ranging from about seven to eleven years old, gathered in one of the rooms in the house, crowding around the table to listen intently to Alice Pennes, an artist who works closely with ARTogether. She instructed them to choose symbols that they thought would best represent them and their communities, and the participants used a clear, paint-resistant substance to draw their symbolic designs on the fabric of their flags.
Using the art tools and paint provided by Alice, the children moved to the backyard of the house where they engaged with colors, textures, and patterns to paint their flags. The paint-resistant symbols withstood the colors, resulting in striking flowers, creatures, and even cupcakes contrasting against vibrantly colored backgrounds. Catherine McGuire, one of ARTogether’s volunteers, later ironed the flags before the participants strung them together to complete their projects. The children posed together for a final photograph, proudly exhibiting their dynamic and colorful creations.
Alice noted the significance of the symbols the participants chose, saying, “It was really hard for them to choose symbols, but they did it...and a lot of them did do things that were really meaningful.”
Art is a universal language. It is a form of self-expression that transcends verbal transmission, and is thus especially necessary for cross-cultural communication and understanding and well as individual development. Alice agrees, noting, “I think everybody should get to make things and create things and use their hands and get to experience things that maybe they don’t get to experience otherwise. Making things allows you to access yourself in a different way than anything else does and I wanted to offer that healing tool to other people and especially to refugees. I think it’s really important, especially right now.”
ARTogether’s mission is to provide support and safe spaces for all refugees and immigrants by connecting them with art, thus helping them to to adjust and grow in their new homes. The goal of workshops such as the flag-making project is to give individuals who come from refugee families the chance to express themselves through fun and creative means.