Encore June 2019

Page 34


STREET Art and More

Art exhibit one of many outcomes of afterschool program GREYSON STEELE

Brian Powers



rowing up on the north side of Kalamazoo, Charlene Taylor experienced firsthand the many challenges facing the neighborhood, although she did not know these were neighborhood challenges at the time. Taylor simply knew how hard her mother worked to support her and her four siblings as a single parent. “There was so much love and cohesiveness in the family that we didn’t even realize that we were the underserved,” Taylor says. “I mean there are some things, when we look back now, we knew that we were struggling, but we survived it.” This month boys from Taylor’s old neighborhood as well as the Edison

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neighborhood will have their artwork featured during Art Hop, when it will be on display at Mercantile Bank, 107 W. Michigan Ave. It’s an opportunity Taylor never had as a child, but one of many she now works to provide through the STREET Afterschool Program, a nonprofit she co-founded that offers mental, emotional and academic support to boys ages 10-17. It is the second year the kids have participated in Art Hop, and their works this year revolve around the theme of hip-hop music. According to Taylor, the theme for the art was chosen because “the boys love music, and it’s another way for them to express themselves. It’s like therapy.”

Ramone Johnson (second from left) uses a hot glue gun on artwork as, from left, Myrome Johnson, staff member JaNequa Walker and Aquarius Johnson assist.

Why STREET? For 17 years, Taylor has worked as a substance abuse prevention specialist for the Community Healing Centers (CHC). Four days a week, she works with kids in the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, many of them coming from Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood, where drugs, alcohol and violence often lie right outside their doorsteps. To address the mental health disparities among Kalamazoo’s underserved youth, Taylor, along with the Community Healing Centers,