— by Destiny Garner
A bright yellow table with colorful art supplies spread across it, showing the hands of Black children sitting around the table creating art.

Over the summer I hosted art classes with the NOMO Foundation (New Options More Opportunities), with ages ranging from 7–14 years. One of their strategies for preventing youth violence is giving them opportunities to generate their own income and providing safe places for them after school and on weekends. NOMO will be used as a case study for my thesis work. Specifically identifying their structure for providing resources and their youth outreach.  Student work produced through the classes at NOMO will also be presented during the MFA in Progress exhibit. This project aims to address the various issues Black communities are living through, while exploring the ways in which art and creative think tanks can provide residents with other options.

The lack of trash cans in residential neighborhoods and the excessive amounts of illegal dumping were some of the issues that have presented themselves within my research. My first solution for this problem was more trash cans in residential neighborhoods. While more trash cans are needed, it’s not the solution or resource that's wanted at the time. Black residents living in Philadelphia want to first address issues of violence, wellness and drug abuse as this is seen as most important or urgent at this time. 

Themes or concepts such as artist-social worker, creative problem-solving, community, resources, material, Black, safe places and creative think tanks have shown up within my research. Research for this project has also brought forward the similarities between socially engaged artists and social workers in communities. Socially engaged artists and social workers both share similar goals of enhancing and meeting the needs of communities. I question: What can artists take from social workers and vice versa?  

Lastly, after leaving Moore, I plan to work towards creating a program that cleans and redesigns vacant properties in residential neighborhoods. Then later turning them into safe places (creative think tanks) for communities to create and problem-solve personal and community issues. The MFA in Progress exhibit will reflect my research through a road map of how I got to this research question, as well as present the results of having “creative think tanks” in Black communities (workshops with NOMO). I will also be using this time to clarify the key terms and concepts that have shown up within this project. In my upcoming thesis paper, I plan to explore this question: How can creative think tanks provide residents (specifically Black residents) with opportunities to foster their own resources, solutions, and build self-advocacy in order to combat community issues?

Flyer for NOMO Art Class Repurpose and Reuse Workshop Creative Problem Solving 

Flyer for NOMO

Student artwork produced through workshop (DRUMS 2021)

Student artwork produced through workshop (DRUMS) 2021