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An Unexpected Gift

Cincinnati, Ohio - Sometimes art takes an unexpected turn.

Often that turn turns out to be delightful.

Like when the Fitton Center crew arrived at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center May 15 to helm the creation station during Free Sundays at the Freedom Center.

Artist and Outreach Team member Brent Billingsley – along with his adult event lead, his college-age intern and seven high school volunteers – spread out across half a dozen tables in the second-floor gallery to lead children through the process of making a greeting card for a loved one.

Fitton Center supplied blank card stock and envelopes, along with the markers, colored pencils and stickers to decorate them. (The Freedom Center enforces a strict no glitter policy for arts and crafts. Apparently there was an incident.)

The kids supplied the imagination.

“The cards tell someone important in your life that you love them, just because,” said Caroline Digiovenale, Fitton Center Education and Community Experience Coordinator. “Brent had done this activity with kids before. They’d ask why they were making the cards and he’d say, ‘Just because it’s Tuesday.’ We changed the answer to fit the event better – Why? Since it’s Sunday – but it’s the same idea. You don’t have to have a reason to tell somebody you love them.”

One child, though, made a card and handed it to his volunteer helper.

“That was really a surprise, really sweet,” Digiovenale said. “The volunteer was touched. I don’t think anyone expected that kind of gesture, but it showed them people liked their work, that they were appreciated. That boy and that volunteer, they made a real connection.”

Beyond the cards, Billingsley’s intern also set up an easel and worked on an original canvas, offering visitors the opportunity to see even more art coming to life.

Guests from Greater Cincinnati were the norm, but young artists from Indianapolis, Nashville and points beyond also participated.

“It wasn’t just kids, either,” Digiovenale said. “A lot of parents sat down and made cards with their kids. For their kids. There were other adults who stopped by without any kids at all and made cards. We had a great range of ages, all of them making something unique and personal.”

Digiovenale said the team served more than 200 guests, many of whom walked away with not only their cards, but also with pamphlets and flyers on Fitton Center classes and summer camps.

Almost all of them walked away impressed.

“It was a great day, a great experience to work with the Freedom Center,” Digiovenale said. “Their staff was great. They had us all set up. We met a lot of people, made a lot of cards and I hope we made some new friends and fans.”

That’s one of the goals of the Outreach Team, which has several more public projects coming soon, including:

- Hamilton Pride (June 4, Hamilton), making mini pride flags and rainbow twirlers;

- ElectriCITY (June 12, Hamilton), Shrinky Dink lightning bolt activity;

- Creative Arts in the Park (June 16, Liberty Township), caterpillar crafts.

For more information on Fitton Center Outreach programs, please visit our website here.

The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.

Building Community Excellence through the Arts and Culture

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