Sunsets and soft drinks at Duggan Park Apartments
First, there was a relaxation reading, full of peaceful imagery.
Then came the paints, brushes and canvas, with a call to create a gentle sunset, or a scene of one’s choice.
Parents came out to try their artistic talent at the first ‘Paint ‘n Sip’ held recently at Springfield Housing Authority’s Duggan Park Apartments, located in the city’s Indian Orchard neighborhood. With guidance from a licensed art therapist from the Behavioral Health Network, would-be artists sat at a make-shift studio and brought watercolors to life.
The event came courtesy of Talk/Read/Succeed!, the SHA family-based literacy early program now located at three family developments, including Duggan. The others are Robinson Gardens and Sullivan Apartments.
The ‘Paint ‘n Sip’ evening activity was aimed at creating a friendly neighborhood environment and encouraging parents to engage in quality ‘me time’ when possible. Though the suggested creation was a golden sunset, participants were encouraged to make their own alternative designs if they so desired.
T/R/S! Program Coordinator Daisy Gomez said the event was an enjoyable night out where neighbors could meet and mix and create something beautiful at the resident activity space at 435 Goodwin St. While parents painted downstairs, children played upstairs with a hired babysitter.
“It’s a fun night for everyone,” Gomez noted. “It’s a chance for everyone to relax and do something they’ve maybe not done before. Everyone has a creative side, and this brings that out.”
Indeed, Hector and Katieria Vazquez made the event a family night, even letting their one-year-old son Adrian in on the painting action.
“I don’t really paint very often, so this is very nice,” said Hector Vazquez, adding with a grin, “It’s relaxing, and maybe my wife and I are in a little competition.”
With little Adrian on her lap, gleefully dipping a brush into yellow paint, Katieria Vazquez shared the joke with a laugh.
“This is just great,” she said. “It’s something fun and something different. We’re all enjoying it a lot.”
BHN Art Therapist Courtney Rotzler began the night with a guided imagery meditation to relax participants, and get bring them to a happy, peaceful place. She then modeled for them, step by step, the process of painting the sunset that most were following.
“First we strip away all the noise of their day, and their lives, and find that place that makes us feel our best relaxed self,” Rotzler said. “Maybe they remember a beautiful place they went to, or a nice memory.”
Then, she added, “I encourage them to do their own thing, even if they are following my painting.”
What came from that was a series of colorful sunsets, each similar, but different at the same time, than the other. Rotzler hopes that when hanging in the homes of participants, “Just seeing their work will bring them back to that place they envisioned.”
She added, “I love sharing art, helping people to create art, getting them out of their comfort zone and making them see that everyone has a creative side.”
One participant who made her own creation was Marisel Rivera. With a sharp series of colorful lines, she worked on a modern-style piece that looked quite professional.
“I like art,” Rivera admitted. “I’m into abstract. I love painting so when I heard about this, I immediately knew I was going to come.”
Sunset painter Amaba Alicea said that besides creating a pretty painting, she was feeling calm and happy.
“I like this. I makes me feel relaxed and it’s nice to be doing something fun with my neighbors,” Alicea said.
Talk/Read/Succeed! began eight years ago, united SHA family properties with their neighborhood elementary schools, and bringing programs and services aimed at helping all family members gear for literacy, education, success and independence.
Currently, Duggan, Robinson Gardens and Sullivan Apartments work with their partner schools Indian Orchard, Dorman and Boland Elementary Schools for programming that runs through the year. Other partners include BHN, the Springfield School Department, Springfield Education Association, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, the City Library, the Eric Carle Museum, Partners for a Healthier Community, Head Start and Reading Success by 4th Grade.