words and art by w a l t e r w s m i t h

The Fun House @ Highwire Gallery: 1991 / Dreaming in Future Tense / a 2011 remix

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“Sometimes we turn the pages in the Book of Memories and come to remember the children who dream in future tense”…..

The Highwire Gallery production of The Fun House
workshop began in March 1991 at the Sayre Morris Community Center in West
Philadelphia and concluded with a performance in May. Funded by the PA Council
on the Arts, the goal was to bring together a group of children and introduce
them to the arts. Our focus would be on dance, performance, music and the visual
arts. Another important part of the workshop was for it to be a community
service, which merged different ethnic backgrounds and communities. For the
eleven girls who participated in the workshop, the hope was to inspire personal
challenges and the pursuit of their dreams. Everyone involved, the artists of
Highwire Gallery, the kids, Empress our musical director, Sandra Lynn our choreographer,
and “DADA” (Dancers Against Drug Abuse) met the challenge and worked hard to
make the program a huge success.

How do we encourage our children to dream, a dream that
inspires, enriches and motivates them to reach for the sky, and to touch just one of the millions of snowflakes that
can be found in the realm of possibilities? How do we lead them by the hand,
through the garden of hopes and dreams?

The Kids at Sandy Beach 2011

I think we do it one child at a time, one school at a time, one
project at a time, and as one community. Children love to discover, and be creative.
I strongly believe that the arts will provide them with the tools they will need for exploring their
imagination and giving birth to their dreams.

What do you feel is our children’s greatest need? What resources in our society would you like to see be provided for the well being and growth of our children? Do you believe that the arts, especially at a young age, is a vital tool for encouraging creative thinking and problem solving?

What do you think?

Select the link below for a dream-like journey into a contemporary child’s lullaby.


Winter Poem by Nikki Giovanni 

once a snowflake fell

on my brow and i loved

it so much and i kissed

it and it was happy and called its cousins

and brothers and a web

of snow engulfed me then

i reached to love them all

and i squeezed them and they became

a spring rain and i stood perfectly

still and was a flower

— Author and poet Nikki Giovanni

From “The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni”

And last but not least in this journey of dreams…a short animation.


11 responses

  1. I could see these translated into fabric seriously. I loved the luminosity of all of them.

    July 7, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    • Thanks Mary Ellen, I am looking forward to seeing your fabric work when you return to South Carolina. All of your work is so great!


      July 17, 2011 at 7:06 am

  2. Wow, tough question. Our kids definitely need art, but right now I would settle for the funds to add one more science or math teacher to each and every inner city or rural public school in the country.

    July 7, 2011 at 11:49 pm

  3. elmediat

    Funding the arts and recognizing the value of the arts as part of the education process has been a problem for a long time. Though we do not have the same degree of the education funding problems in Canada as there are in the states, small communities and demographically poorer areas do suffer here . As a Media Literacy teacher I am concerned that many educators and those you control the purse strings fail to see how newer media, with its visual content and complexity, are offering new means to process and communicate messages. This requires young people to have more art and media related education, not less. The frill has become main stream.

    July 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm

    • Elmediate, funding for the arts is crucial indeed. I remember when my artist group in 1990 did an exchange with an artist group from the Netherlands. Both groups sought out financial support from our respective local arts council. The Netherlands provided as much as five times more than we were able to get in support of the exchange program. The Netherlands and perhaps many European countries because of their long history, relishes the arts and understands the vital role it can play in the growth of a society. The project “The Funhouse” helped not only the young children that participated, but their parents become more aware of what was happening in a “downtown” art gallery. Their parents, relatives and friends packed our gallery to standing room only during the evening performance. I am proud of my role as the producer as well as all of the artists of The Funhouse project.

      Thanks for all the work you do in providing quality arts education.

      July 9, 2011 at 10:52 pm

  4. Diva, I agree that math and science are keys to the technological future where most jobs will be found. I love art, and found that it teaches creativity in a way that science does not. Although I do believe science is an art form unto itself.

    July 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm

  5. Math and Science are important for the future, however, we need more creative outlets for kids in the schools and music and art are equally vital to a child’s development. Great post. 🙂

    July 10, 2011 at 2:53 pm

  6. I’m really big on music for kids. (I am tone deaf) I’m not sure why there isn’t more emphasis on it at school. Many times math and music go hand in hand.

    July 14, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    • So true David. We all know that music is mathematical in its structure. I think that in the schools today, music instruction is geared mostly towards those who have the talent to play it. However, I think there should be more courses that provide music for personal apprecation and cultural education. Children can gain interest, become familiar with, and learn about global cultural, history etc via music. This would be exciting. I certainly would have loved a course like this.

      July 14, 2011 at 1:42 pm

  7. If you don’t teach a kid to dream, they are not going to dream as adults. I meet so many adults who never allow themselves the opportunity to dream and they are therefore stuck in the smallest world. It’s very depressing.

    July 21, 2011 at 12:49 am

    • A child needs an imagination. Art provides a tool to cultivate imagination and their dreams. I feel blessed that my dreams as a child, to be an artist, has come true. I never gave up the desire.

      July 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

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