“Reach Out, I’ll Be There to Love and Comfort You”

January 3, 2022
Hub exterior - square

“I want to use a big brush.”  
“Can you stop making sounds?”
“Miss Denise, I don’t get this.”
“What are blue and yellow”
“Van Gogh is my favorite artist.”
“Can I keep this? It looks so good already.”
“Miss Denise, I really don’t get this.”
“Look at you with those earrings.”
“Oh, I get it now!”

And an entire room erupting in giggles at the sound of the last bit of paint being squeezed from a bottle. “Ohhhhh, that’s a f*%t!”  (I just can’t type it; that’s another “f” word that hurts this Southern woman’s ears.)

These are just a few of the excited remarks I heard coming from Room 17 at The Hub on Canal on two different Mondays and from two different age groups. Some of the remarks pertain to art, some don’t, and some come from the petite, perky, enthusiastic, but diplomatically firm leader of these packs of munchkins.  Meet Denise Bell, who has been guiding these art classes, part of the Outreach program here, for five years.

Note that I said, “part.” The Hub on Canal touches so many populations in our community with its extensive Outreach. I’m so glad I chose this as my blog subject; I learned more than expected and only scratched the surface. Maybe you’ll find out something new about The Hub’s activities, too. 

The kids I observed are from Bethel Christian Academy and are transported to The Hub for art experiences beyond what they have available at the school.  The younger group is working on helping to prepare a tree for the Holiday Tree exhibit and sale. Busily flinging paint (I had to move out of the “splash zone”) onto paintbrushes that will become the base of the Outreach Tree, the students are enthused about their project. The older students were working on making color wheels and using primary colors to create secondary colors and variations and identifying complementary colors. Shortly, they will be creating ornaments based upon famous artists. These will also become part of the Outreach Holiday Tree. Denise was a pre-school teacher for 30 years, so when she also added even another responsibility of teaching ESE students, ages 18-22, she was not prepared for how much this group grabbed hold of her heart.

Oh, there is so much more!  There is an even younger group of children, pre-k, that are being served at our facility. Outside The Hub, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Edgewater and NSB are delving into art projects regularly. 

Still looking like a college student, it’s hard to believe that Heather Pastor has acquired the amount of varied and extensive business experience that she has. How lucky is The Hub to have her serving as the Director of Gallery Operations?  It is quite the match, as Heather has been interested in and studying art for years before her college days at Henry Ford and Eastern Michigan. When she began at The Hub, she served as the teacher for the Boys and Girls clubs in the Outreach program in New Smyrna Beach and in Edgewater, as well as teaching at Bethel Christian.  She said that the programs have provided a consistency in the lives of students that may be lacking and treasures the excitement the kids exhibit at having this opportunity regularly.

Unfortunately, Heather’s many duties have forced her to drop this particular aspect of her multi-faceted job description, but fortunately, we have Eliza Midgett stepping into this role. Eliza is a fabulous artist and has been an art teacher for years. Hopefully, you have seen her creativity coming to life on the walls outside The Hub on Canal. She is chomping at the bit to begin this challenge, waiting just for the obligatory jumping through the administrative and legal hoops to be completed.

Another ongoing Outreach program from The Hub focuses on veterans, an often-underserved group.  These special citizens are provided with guitars and receive guitar lessons. Guitars for Vets (G4V) is a national program that has administered over 25,000 guitar lessons and distributed over 2,500 guitars. We are proud to be a chapter providing this service. Several G4V students joined The Hub’s veterans’ band to perform at Veterans Music Night on November 5.  In many cases it was their first time performing for others outside of their families.  

Still other community groups served are those individuals that have been identified as having early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia (Art Connects ALZ) and/or Parkinson’s (Rock Steady Boxing). I am lucky enough to have been involved with watercolor instruction for some incredibly fascinating and delightful people. Studies have proven that art and the socialization taking place within art classes greatly increases the quality of life for these clients.  (My life has certainly been enriched by the relationships I’ve developed with them. I love them so much!).

Art Through Technology is a new program in the planning, almost implementing, stage.  Richard England, the President of The Hub on Canal, is so pleased to announce that we are the recipient of a local operating grant from USA Today Network (part of Gannett publishing) called A Community Thrives. To receive the money, The Hub had to fundraise and apply, and we won one of the smaller grants! We will be purchasing computers and retrofitting a classroom to be used for outreach programs. The potential here is limitless.  Hopefully, this will open opportunities for people who never even were aware of the vast range of technology applications, and perhaps open career paths.

The Fashion Club.
This deserves its own blog.

Beginning in 2018 with 7 middle school students and called the After School Fashion Club, this program has developed into a major event. Students from middle AND high school learn to sew, of course, but also learn fashion design, creation, and marketing skills. They spend countless hours in the process. I first became aware of the program when I saw a clothes rack loaded with cute re-purposed jeans and skirts in the room where I was taking a class. I was stunned by the imagination and creativity and skill involved in these clothing articles. 

The culmination of all this energy and dedication is a runway fashion show at the Brannon Center each spring. This ticketed event is a crowd favorite, and hopefully will return to its pre-pandemic capacity at the venue in 2022.

I talked to Richard England to try and tie all these Outreach programs together.  England explained that The Hub’s Outreach programs are what truly animates the staff and volunteers—they are at the heart of The Hub’s mission. The Hub exists to create a wide range of options for our community to experience the arts and gain from that exposure.  For most, providing access allows it to happen.  For some, however, access isn’t enough.  Instead, we must take the arts to the participants—that is the essence of Outreach at The Hub.

The one common denominator for all The Hub’s Outreach programs is that they are free to the participants.  That means they must be funded from other sources.  Memberships and government grants provide general support and some donations and sponsorships directly target specific programs.  One source of support for all of our children’s programs is the good work of Frank Ferrante.  Frank is both an accomplished Hub artist and a darn good saxophone player as well.  For several years, Frank has hosted his own saxophone concert at The Hub.  He donates his time and all of the proceeds from that event help support those kids’ programs.  Frank will again host his benefit concert on March 11.  You’re your calendars. 

 I apologize for the beaucoup names that I didn’t mention that have helped through the years with the foundation and the growth of the program, but I cannot leave without mentioning the founders of The Hub on Canal.  Sally Mackay, Susan Stern, and Susan Ellis were the visionaries for this venue, a major treasure in our city, and one of the primary goals was to enhance New Smyrna Beach through community service. The Outreach programs here provide that in multiple ways. The founders surely must be proud and elated at the success of their project.