July 2021 Newsletter

It’s been super busy lately so we were really happy to be able to send our newsletter out to our subscribers. What? You didn’t know you could do that? Well please let us fix that for you. Click, complete, DONE! Now that our newsletter will be sent directly to your inbox, you can relax and read our July newsletter at your leisure. Enjoy that art and all that we have accomplished with your help! If you want to click on a link (and we hope you do) to see where it leads you, try this. Happy reading and as always, thank you for your support!


It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Superpower!

I don’t know who had more fun this week  – our artist art, or the kids at Casa Chirilagua. Once again Sharmila asked the kids (4th, 5th, and 6th graders) to create their superhero with special superpowers that the world needs. And as always, the most important part of our work is the voluntary sharing the last 20 minutes of the class. Who is your superhero? What are its superpowers? Why? Even the volunteers got into the act and as Sharmila said on her Facebook page: “There are a lot of healthy social skills that can develop when kids feel safe and free to engage with older adult/mentors during such creative endeavors.” Check out these world-saving creations!

This superhero can instantly teach you any kind of music or any musical instrument instantly.

A robot who looks mean but actually is very nice and cares for his family. His hands shoot stones and laser so he can protect his loved ones.

A super hero that saves people from hurricanes and calamities.

Meet Forest Man and Plant Dog. They keep planting and guarding trees so our earth always remains green.

A superhero that has magic powers in his hands. He has bionic eyes with laser sharp focus and can zap you.

Delicate girl made with floral petals. She is gentle and kind.

They both created the sunflower sisters and their superpowers are camouflaging and tele-transporting and also distracting people.

A super hero that just wants to go hug people and spread love.

Which Mask is You?

We’re happy when our artists are happy! Bonus if our partners and clients are too. So we hit the trifecta earlier this week when our visual artist Sharmila Karamchandani was able to go back onsite at Friends of Guest House. While Zoom classes allowed us to survive the pandemic, it wasn’t the same. We (and all of us) struggled with blurry images, poor connection, not enough cameras at our partner sites, people leaving mid-class because of connectivity, lack of supplies, etc. “What a relief it was to feel that joy again to see all the women face-to-face!” Sharmila wrote on her Facebook page.

To celebrate her return to Friends of Guest House, Sharmila chose one of her (and my) favorite projects – masks. Each of the women made two masks where one side shows what she feels on the inside and the other side shows how she seems on the outside. The women were honest with themselves and put it all on paper, Sharmila said, and they credited Friends of Guest House with helping them to dive deeper and really get to know themselves. Don’t you just love nonprofits? What do you think of their masks?

Let’s Go to Guatemala – Improvisation with Casa Chirilagua

It’s hard to capture the power of improvisation with one photo (especially if the photographer is me) but this is what we have. Despite the air conditioning giving out in 95 degree heat, our improvisation teacher led 10 really cute little kids through an hour (!) of improv scenarios at Casa Chirilagua. Many Latino families live in this part of Alexandria, and this area (called “Arlandria” since it borders Arlington) was hit hard by the ravages of COVID-19. The disease, job loss, income loss, food insecurity, struggles with at-home schooling, etc., all showed up in force in Arlandria, and the Alexandria community as a whole really focused their efforts to help our neighbors living here.

By the time I arrived, improv class was ending, but I was able to capture the last game where the kids were pretending they had just landed in Guatemala. Some of these kids or their parents were born there, and these kids seemed to really enjoy an imaginary trip home. Not sure why one little girl in denim overalls is lying on the floor. It must have been part of the game. Or maybe she was just worn out?

She-Art with Space of Her Own

Wednesday, July 1, was an exciting day, and not just because it is July! We held our first event with the Alexandria nonprofit Space of Her Own – a wonderful mentoring program for preteen girls. What better way to kickstart our new relationship than our She-Art project? We got to know each other over Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap (one of my fave Alexandria pizza places, btw) then our amazing Alison McHugh led 12 girls and mentors through creating their own avatar with their own motivational phrase(s) on a 6″ x 6″ tile.

Over the next two hours the girls selected “She creates from her heart” “She turns her dreams into reality” “She makes everyone feel loved” and more as they focused on phrases that resonated with them while creating themselves with colored paper, scissors, glue, and imagination. We ended our session – way too soon – with everyone sharing their new masterpiece and why they chose and created what they did. Til next time, SOHO! We loved hanging out with you and can’t wait to do it again!