A partnership of hands-on fun

Girls at the 14th St. Community Center working with clay to get projects ready for their kiln

Boys having fun at the 14th St. Community Center making a robot from clay, getting it ready to put in the kiln

In America, it has been said that children are the most important thing one can spend time with and the people working at the 14th Street Community Center are doing just that.

The center has had a kiln donated to them through the Scioto Foundation and this has just added to the things the children at the Community Center can do this summer through their Summer Outreach Program. They can work with clay and then have it processed through the use of the kiln.

Mike Bowen, who is an adjunct faculty professor from Shawnee State and Marshall University, has been instrumental in setting up such an event.

Bowen, who came down and began the work to get the kiln up and running, stated that he, along with John Valentine — who serves as the Vice President of the board at the 14th Street Community Center — started the kiln toward the end of the spring semester.

While the Community Center has taken most of the tasks over from that point, Bowen, who helps them through a grant that the Community Center had received, volunteers more than what the grant allocates in order to make sure they were self-sufficient and able to run it, if he’s not there and be able to do things on their own there at the center.

During the entire time, Bowen had a student from SSU with him, as an art student who was set to graduate also volunteered as part of a work study program.

“I’ve been doing most of the kiln work and I’m coming over there today, to help them get some of their work in the kiln,” Bowen said on Wednesday morning. “They should be able to do well, and hopefully, in the future, we can have some university students to come help and volunteer or work as an internship to get credit. This ceramic program is something they don’t normally get a chance to do. The more they can get into ceramics, the better off they’ll be in life.”

For Valentine, it’s all about serving the needs of the center.

“Intellect, aesthetic, and physical workouts are what they want at the center,” Valentine said. “This a joint effort between the community center and the Scioto Foundation, not just the community center applying for a grant. It’s 50/50, the community center 50 percent and the Scioto Foundation, is the other 50 percent, with both coming up with the money evenly. It’s a partnership, with the center saying we’re gonna lift 50 percent of the weight and Scioto Foundation saying they will lift the other 50 percent. Aesthetics are as important as sports. We want children at a very young age to feel they can create and express themselves through art. We are trying to elevate art in young people at the same level as sports.””

With the grant money, Bowen bought clay, glaze, and hand tools to do what he called “tree-planting” to get the classes up and running. Bowen and Valentine, however, singled out Maxine Malone — who has worked at the community center since 1976 — as having a good handle on not only the ceramic work, but the community center itself.

“(Maxine) really puts everything together and helps the students do what they love,” Bowen said.

“Mike and Maxine have done all the heavy lifting as far as instituting it,” Valentine said. “We got the kiln, he got it up and running up at the Armory where there are fewer people around, so less things can go wrong. Maxine has been with the center since 1976. She works with the children, especially on holidays and black history month, so that the kids can sing and dance. Now, in addition to the singing and dancing, we have the hands-on ceramics.”

“The Scioto Foundation stimulates these kids through this project,” Malone added. “It gives them hands on training and keeps them out of trouble.”

As far as future projects are concerned, Bowen and Valentine would like to set up an internship in the fall with the 14th Street Community Center, so that Shawnee State students can get credit for working with the kids while the kids find activities that can help them grow as individuals.

“It seems like it’s a pretty good first step,” Bowen said. “For me, it’s gratifying to help. They learn my name real fast, I walk in and they see the clay guy and they are very excited when I walk in the door. They are interested, and there is something good out there and I hope that helps. I know it is sometimes tough for the kids in the area there, and I think this gives the kids something to benefit from and exposes them from what they are usually being exposed to day to day. I think can be extremely beneficial.”

In addition to Bowen’s and Valentine’s efforts, a grandparent program is also available at the 14th Street Community Center. The program, which is co-ed and voluntary, also has teenage workers that come over from the Community Action program to help.