By Marina Petrova
For those of you who have been following Design Ethos and the 400lb Baby Project, we are happy to announce that a new baby has been born on Waters Avenue! For the rest of you who have not heard about our chubby babies – these are the concrete planters on Waters Avenue that we lovingly refer to as the 400lb Babies.
It all started as students from Prof. Boylston’s Sustainable Practices in Design class at SCAD, together with public artist Jerome Meadows, came up with the idea of reusing the abandoned planters on Waters Avenue for public art as a way to bring art to the community and align it the work with the Waters Avenue Revitalization initiative lead by the City of Savannah. The idea was further developed during the Design Ethos DO-ference workshops into a planter adoption program (400 Pound Baby Adoption Agency) to engage businesses and the community in the process.
The newest baby is now part of a growing family and enjoys the laughter and play of all of the students of the Best Academy Day Care Center on the corner of Waters Avenue and Duffy Street. Mrs. Nancy Isaacson, director of the school, has been very supportive of the Waters Revitalization effort, and became the first 400lb Baby adopter. As an adopter and business owner she helped with the concept for the artist elements. The Best Academy Day Care Center will be responsible for the upkeep and monitoring of the planter in front of their establishment.
Working with the Day Care Center provided a great opportunity to engage the children’s creativity and spontaneity. It also initiated a wonderful discussion about teaching kids, the values we seek to keep and pass on to the future generations and, of course, the role of art. The concept for this planter developed around the day care’s mission of “Growing Happy, Healthy Children” and our desire to contribute to a healthier and happier community on Waters Avenue.
We held several art workshops at the Center with each age group: the 1 and 2-year-olds played with paint on their hands and feet to create hand and footprints; the 3 and 4 year-olds drew faces, which were all incorporated into the final art piece.
To relate the artwork to the people and history of the community, we talked to parents, teachers and community members. As we were holding our first workshop we had the unexpected fortune of meeting a woman who informed us that this was the building that she grew up in as one of the orphans in what used to be the Episcopal Home for Girls from the 1950s to the 1970s.
“We had a very happy life, we were sheltered, and happy, and spoiled”, said Mrs. Catherine Hopkins. She showed us pictures taken while she was living there, and talked about Miss Bessie, her favorite teacher, and the happy memories she had living and growing up on Waters Avenue.
We asked the teachers from the Best Academy Day Care to share with us their experiences working with the kids. “Teaching children has inspired me to want to learn more. Seeing how excited they are about learning makes me learn more”, Miss Jessica said.
“It is very fulfilling when a parent comes in and wants to learn a song their child is trying to sing at home. And when they bring things to you and tell you what they are”, Miss Sapling shared.
We also interviewed Miss Geneve Joynor and Miss Helen Smiley, volunteer foster parents at the WW Law Center Day Care Program located a block away from Waters Avenue. Both retired, they now volunteer their time to help with the day care’s daily activities: “We are mostly role models”, Miss Joynor said, “They (the kids) remember everything you say and watch everything you do.”
Our conversations and workshops were very invigorating. The art created by the children was unbelievably beautiful and vibrant. The eyes of the teachers, foster-parents, Miss Hopkins and everybody we talked to glowed when we mentioned the kids or the place on Waters Avenue. We hope to be able to pass that vibrancy and beauty on to Water, its citizens and everybody else who gets to see our new 400lb baby.
Join the 400 lb baby Adoption Agency Facebook page and get informed about our next endeavors!
Marina Petrova is a graduate student in the MFA Graphic Design program at SCAD. She is a Fulbright Scholar. She has been a involved in two SCAD courses that has been involved in Waters Avenue over the last year, playing an integral role in developing the “Proud to be Waters” Campaign, and the Information Visualization course responsible for creating the interactive maps tht were integral to the Design Ethos DO-ference workshops. She is presently doing an internship with Indigo Sky Community Gallery.