It's three p.m. on a sunny July afternoon, and even though it’s summer, the children inside the old James A. Henry school building look thrilled to be inside a classroom. Some of them are grinning as if they were on a trip to Disneyworld.
Charlie Newton has them excited about art. He’s a prominent local artist teaching classes for the kids who live in College Hill Courts, an area on Chattanooga’s Westside that has high violence and poverty rates.
"There's about six gangs in this neighborhood," Newton says. "There's been about three murders this summer of young women, young ladies by their boyfriends."
But these classes keep the kids off the streets, under a different type of influence, Newton says.
He gives these lessons for free, and learning about art can also help the children learn about math, culture and history.
In this segment, we visit a class and find out more about how he is inspiring and educating these children.
He's formed a nonprofit called SPLASH to help pay for the art supplies and other costs of these classes.
Why is it called SPLASH?
"Because we're splashing paint around!" he laughs.
From SPLASH's Web site:
“SPLASH” is a Young Artist Community Workshop with a dominant arts apprenticeship component.
The motivation behind SPLASH comes from the ancient Proverb that says:
“Your gift will make room for you”.
SPLASH creates a safe place housed in a professional studio environment for young artists, urban, rural, low-income and disadvantaged at-risk youth to grow and express themselves through fine arts.
SPLASH will impact kids of all ages through its open-door art appreciation and enrichment workshops which will serve as a bridge to the apprenticeship program for those displaying an art aptitude and desire for specific instruction and guidance.
Newton, a professional artist who has had exhibits in Italy, England and the Hunter Museum of American Art, has a special connection to this community. He grew up in the area and went to school in the James A. Henry building. When he was a child, his parents couldn't always afford to pay for his art lessons. Now he's giving these kids opportunities he was sometimes denied.
SPLASH has received funding from ArtsBuild through their Community Cultural Connections grants. Newton also hopes to partner with other organizations and people in Chattanooga to keep bringing art to underserved youth.