My name is Vivian Acosta, and I am a senior at Florida International University majoring in psychology. I enjoy helping others, and I aspire to contribute to others’ well-being wherever I set my foot throughout my career. I volunteered at Coral Gables Museum, and this was my experience:
I volunteered at Coral Gables Museum, assisting the Director of Education Liliam Dominguez with the Museum’s Spring Camp. Coral Gables Museum is located at what was once the Gables’ Police and Fire Station. The museum focuses on narrating the story of how Coral Gables was founded and developed through its permanent exhibition “Creating The Dream: George E. Merrick And His Vision For Coral Gables.” Works by a variety of artists are also exhibited at the museum. The Coral Gables Museum’s mission is to celebrate the history of the community of Coral Gables. At the same time, they explore the civic arts of the city and foster history, art, and cultural appreciation to their broad audience (Coral Gables Museum). The museum offers a variety of programs such as tours, educational contributions, and special events.
Several Camps are offered to the children of the community throughout the year. In these camps, kids explore their creativity through art and explore the environment and community outdoors by going on excursions. These camps are planned and executed by the educator and visual artist Dr. Lili, whom I had the honor to assist throughout spring camp.
I enjoy exploring areas that I am not familiar with. This opportunity did not relate to my major, I originally thought, which was one of the reasons why I chose it. By exploring different fields and putting myself in situations that I am not familiar with, I have the opportunity to grow, gain knowledge, and expand my experience. I have been to numerous art museums, and even though I do not have any background in art, I greatly enjoy it and appreciate learning about it and experiencing its beauty. Art museums are enriched with culture, history, and—of course—art! I saw volunteering at a museum as a major opportunity to learn about an array of topics.
I wasn’t sure what activities I was going to assist with at the museum, but whatever it was, I knew that I was going to help others, add a new kind of experience to my life, and stimulate my creative side, which I don’t use as much as I used to. I greatly enjoy creating, but responsibilities and deadlines have gotten in the way of my artistic side, so I knew that being at a museum would inspire this inactive interest of mine.
I contacted Dr. Liliam Dominguez, and she informed me about the Spring Camp the Museum was hosting the following week. Lili kindly allowed me to be a part of this exciting program. I have experience working with children, and I really enjoy their genuine relationships, honest opinions, and original ideas. They are sponges of knowledge and banks of imagination. I have always believed that children should be encouraged to create, explore, and believe in themselves, and this camp promoted just that. My background in psychology allowed me to voice this to them effectively and understand their perspectives. This opportunity allowed me to learn, explore my creativity, and, most importantly, help children have a unique experience at camp.
I have always enjoyed creating, but as I got older, I stopped practicing one of my favorite hobbies. During camp, my dormant passion awoke. I enjoyed creating side by side with the campers. Their creativity inspired me and taught me to let my mind loose and just create. I handed kids play dough, and they immediately grabbed it and made different characters, monsters, cities, etc. Whereas when I sat and attempted to create something, I couldn’t think of making anything but a ball. By observing the campers work on their art pieces, I learned to allow myself to depart this dimension mentally and enter a new one where I am in charge of inventing everything on it. As Lili taught the campers new skills, techniques, styles, and background information on art, I gained knowledge as well.
I assisted the kids with anything they needed, including short motivational talks. Even though they have great creative potential, they wanted to give up on their projects at times. I was always there to remind them of how unique their past works were and that they could make anything they wanted as long as they tried. I encouraged them to add one more scratch and then another, and eventually, they were back in their flow state. It is essential to keep in mind that we don’t always see the results we want immediately. We must add piece by piece before our ideas begin to take shape.
Through this opportunity, I was able to learn as much from the campers as they had the chance to learn from me.
Where and What
Throughout Spring Break, there were different activities planned for the campers. They learned about specific artists, their background, what they’re known for, and their most famous artworks. Then, campers recreated some of these artists’ famous pieces. Some of the artists and works campers learned about were Vincent Van Gogh and his paintings “The Starry Night” and “Vase with Twelve Sunflowers.” They also learned about Alexander Calder and his unique mobiles. Then, they made their own mobiles using components of a portrait—eyes, lips, eyelashes, noses. They also learned about Frida Kahlo and her beautiful portraits. Last but not least, they drew a portrait inspired by Picasso’s Cubism style.
I assisted the campers with anything they needed help with. Gluing things, opening bottles, tying knots, showing them what their tasks were and how to do them, and preparing the materials they were going to be using. When they were done with their artworks, I helped to hang them on the wall. I also helped students with bigger projects such as the great Frida Kahlo mosaic and artists’ driver’s license.
We also played several games with the kids. They enjoyed playing musical chairs, follow the leader, and “freeze.” One of their favorite things to do was to make figures from play dough. They were always excited to add new pieces to their “family collection,” which consisted of monsters, characters, and items made out of playdough created by the campers.
We visited Bill Sadowski Park and learned about several reptiles, the different ecosystems in Florida, and the importance of preserving and taking care of our environment. We did a short hike and learned how numerous species are affected daily due to our inconsiderate actions. The campers also did some prints with the leaves and flowers they found during the field trip. On the last day, the campers’ families were invited to appreciate a special exhibition showcasing the works of the campers. It was heartwarming to see how excited the children were to show their parents their unique creations.
I genuinely enjoyed this opportunity. I got to work with very bright and creative children. I realized how we all have a creative side, but I guess we just shut it down as we get older, or perhaps we just give up. These kids had great imaginations and ideas, and they did doubt their capabilities now and then, but I was gladly there to motivate them and reassure them. I was always there to remind them that their creations were beautiful and unique. They inspired me to stop thinking inside the box and let my imagination guide my work.
The camp was well organized and thoroughly planned. The schedule was filled with different activities to do throughout the day. The campers had time to play, learn, create, snack, socialize, express themselves, and create some more. Campers left camp with knowledge about different artists, art styles, and their own creations. This was a fun experience for everyone involved in the project, including myself.
The Camp counselors were exceptional. The campers were treated like artists at all times. Their perspectives and ideas were respected, and the counselors allowed the kids decided on every detail of their artwork. I learned a lot from that. It taught me that everyone’s decisions are important, especially if one is creating something. If we modify it, we mess with their intent and idea. The counselors were artists themselves and encouraged the artists inside of the kids to explore and express themselves freely.
This was a unique camp, and I enjoyed my experience. Even though I have worked with kids in the past, I have never seen them express themselves through art, and I am glad I had the opportunity to do so. It is heartwarming to know that the museum has activities planned for kids. I also realized that this is essential—after all, they are the future of our community, and what a better way to educate them on culture, art, and history than through a fun and engaging program from an early age. This opportunity was way better than I expected!
“About.” Coral Gables Museum, 16 Apr. 2021, coralgablesmuseum.org/about/.