Jenna likes to get her hands dirty.
The summer after graduation, Jenna and 10 friends packed up and moved to Pittsburg. For work, she signed up with AmeriCorps and was placed at Union Project, a community arts center. She brought so much energy to the place that after her term of service was over, Union Project hired her to revitalize its arts program.
It was a perfect match.
At Calvin, Jenna loved working with ceramics—and Union Project’s arts program had been a ceramics co-op for 10 years.
Her plan? To schedule ceramics classes and recruit new members for the ceramics co-op by offering them lower rent in the pottery studio in exchange for their service teaching classes.
“That makes studio space more affordable for the ceramic artists, and teaching helps them build their résumés,” said Jenna. “Then, because we don’t have to pay teachers, we can offer classes at a lower cost while still generating revenue, and also offer plenty of scholarship help, which means more community participation. It’s win-win-win.”
It wasn't easy rebuilding the program.
“We had a reputation of just being here, not going out into the community much,” Jenna explained. So she went to after-school and summer-school programs, senior centers and local festivals, handed out fliers and made little clay birds with anyone willing to get their hands dirty.
Since Jenna was hired, the arts program has grown from a few dozen adult learners to over 1,000 children, youths and adults, ranging from none to 30 years experience in art and ceramics.
Jenna combined the ceramics skills she learned at Calvin ceramics with Christian community and applied it to her new community in Pittsburg. “That’s the thing that makes me proudest about Union Project, that people say they feel safe and welcomed in our space.”