With school back in session, Homewood-based artist Vanessa German has been noticing a new trend at the ARThouse. What started more than two years ago as a space for children and neighbors to express their creativity, has morphed into an after-school program of sorts.
“I noticed the kids started coming straight to the ARThouse after school,” German says. “And a lot of them are doing their homework so they need a more quiet space.”
That’s why at the new ARThouse, purchased in May and currently undergoing renovation, German plans to have a reading room where children can do their homework and read. The new building won't open for at least a month, but German is already working on collecting books for the new space.
“At the new ARThouse there’s a lot more space so I thought we needed a dedicated space for more quiet time,” German says. “Now we’ll have a reading room and we’ll also have some nights where we’ll have a story night.”
What started as a call for used children’s books at the beginning of the month, has turned into a social media campaign. German’s friend, a librarian, created an Amazon book list where anyone can purchase a book and have it mailed to the ARThouse.
Since then, more than 100 books have been purchased. Everyday, German finds more and more boxes from Amazon on her doorstep.
"It’s exciting," says German. "It’s going to become the greatest little reading room. I bet it will probably become the most popular part of the house."
The ARThouse started on German's front porch and has grown to be a safe place for children in a neighborhood plagued by violence.
"The kids in the neighborhood would stand at the fence and watch me work on my porch. It started with them wanting to help me," German says.
For the past two years the ARThouse has taken up residence in an abandoned home across from German's residence, but the arrangement was supposed to be temporary. German purchased a $45,000 property down the block from the current ARThouse for the new location. She's used a combination of funds from donations, fundraisers and her own money to finance the sale and renovations of the space.
"It's all worth it. There were times this summer we’d have 27 kids at one time. There just wasn’t enough room. Now we’ll have a permanent home," German says. "It’s important for kids to have a place they can walk to from their own homes where they can engage. It’s their place, it’s in their neighborhood, they’re valued and respected."