“Voices and Visions 2011: Art by and for the Children”

This past Wednesday, over 1,000 people attended the Home for Little Wanderers annual Voices and Visions fundraiser. Held at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston, the highly successful event attracted some of Boston’s most influential people to view stunning art displays and donate to the organization.

The Home for Little Wanderers is an organization that has been around for over 200 years, making it the oldest agency of its kind in the United States. The Home originally opened as an orphan¬age in 1799, and has since expanded and developed to become one of the most significant non-profit child and family service agencies in the country.

According to their website, the Home’s mission is “to ensure the healthy behavioral, emotional, social, and educational development of children and families living in at risk-circumstances.” The Voices and Visions event is the organization’s major fundraiser and represents the “culmination of a year-long innovative arts program.”

The artwork at the event is produced by the children participating in the organization’s residential and social services. Many of these children have had extremely difficult childhoods and struggle with mental and behavioral issues. The event began twenty years ago as a small scale display of children’s art by residents at the Knight Children’s Center in Jamaica Plan. It has since grown to encapsulate hundreds of pieces by children in all of the Home’s pro¬grams.

Annah Jordan works today the Knight Children’s Center as an art teacher. She taught kids age 6-13 years old. Many of these children created pieces on exhibit at Voices and Visions. Over the course of her life, Jordan has studied and applied art therapy in an attempt to help the troubled children she teaches.

“The Knight Children’s Center is a therapeutic home for children with severe behavioral issues,” said Jordan. “I have studied art therapy. I look to utilize my skills while teaching my classes. I hope to show my students that they always have choices and there are many different ways for them to express themselves.”

Brian Barresi teaches 10-18 year old children at the Longview Farm, another one of the Home’s therapeutic residential and educational services. As a teach¬er, Barresi works to create a soothing environment for his troubled students with his art classes.

“I try to set up the nice, relaxing environment. It’s important to the kids that it is a calming atmosphere. It is a year long process and over the course of that time the kids get very serious about their work,” said Barresi.

Several of Barresi’s student’s pieces were on display at the gala, spanning a wide range of art genres, including paintings, 2D and 3D models, hanging mobiles, and paper cranes.

All of the art work at the event was influenced by this year’s theme: Cultures of the world. The artwork was organized based on the geographic region that inspired each particular collection. These areas of influence included: North America and the Islands, Europe and Asia, Mexico and South America, Africa, Easterland and Egypt, and Australia Oceania. This choice of theme led to an incredibly diverse and aesthetically stunning display.

According to Edie Janas, program director for the Longview Farm site, those in charge of the event felt the “Cultures of the world” theme choice was a great choice for this year’s event.

“We had a bunch of different themes, and this seemed like the perfect fit. It allowed for some freedom, and allowed for some space,” said Janas.

Janas made clear that the creation of art is very beneficial for the children the Home’s program serves. “The art class¬es allow for the kids to be free in their thinking and expression. There are no real limits and it’s a stress-free time,” said Janas. “We have a staff of art teachers and therapists who work to pull this event off, and they are truly heroes.”

Josh Grant is also a program director for the Baird Center and School, another one of the Home’s Therapeutic Residential and Educational service program. The Baird Center is located in Plymouth and serves males ages 10 to 18. For Josh, the event represents much more than a simple fundraiser.

“The population we work with is a group of kids who haven’t had much in their lives. They’ve had a real bare bones upbringing. We give a real childhood to these kids. We are able to create opportunities for them that most kids have grow¬ing up, but they did not,” said Grant.

The Home takes their students on trips to different events, from museums to day trips to Six Flags. The Voices and Visions gala make these trips possible.

“The money we raise from this event gives kids a chance to do these things. It goes much further than the money we receive from the state. We are really committed to the children. We mean what we say in our mission statement,” said Grant.

At this year’s event, over 100 pieces of art were featured from the Baird Center where Grant works. Grant believes the creation of the art and the display of it at the event is truly a lifelong memory for many of his students.

“Often the kids we work with have extremely low self-esteem. For this pro¬gram, they create the art, and I think the entire process really works to raise their self-esteem,” said Grant. “You look around the event and there are a lot of extremely important, wealthy people here. When the kids look around and see these people admiring their creations, it’s really special for them.”

A wide range of art genres were present at this year’s event, divided based upon different world cultures. There were masks, graffiti walls, totem poles, Mayan glyph poems, decorative shoes, tablets, hanging modules, and quilts on display, just to name a few.

This year’s event worked to infuse the power of social media to generate buzz about the event and the artwork. Each display featured signs encouraging guests to tweet and post of Facebook about the evening.

Each year, two prominent citizens are honored by the Home at this Event. This year, Rick Loghlin and Stephen Pemberton received awards.

Rick Laughlin is President of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage New England. According to a press release by the Home for Little Wanderer’s, Laughlin was selected as an honoree “for his role as a business and community leader who champions the cause of good corporate sponsorship.”

Pemberton, Divisional Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer of Walgreens, was honored for “overcoming the challenges of growing up in the foster care system and providing sup¬port to The Home as a role model for youth.”

Along with the awards ceremony, this year’s event featured a silent auction and cocktail reception. For much of the night, guests were able to walk around freely to view and discuss the artwork with each other and employees from the Home. Speaking with some of the guests, it became immediately clear how strongly they felt about the event. Sharon, as she asked to be identified, never misses the annual fundraiser.

“My husband and I come every year to support the kids and the organization. It’s a great chance to come and see how talented these kids are, and we are so happy to be a part of it,” said Sharon. “I am just totally amazed each year with how much artistic ability these children have and the beautiful pieces they create. It is a real gift for them to be able to display their talent to all of us in attendance here tonight. It’s just a great event and a great organization.”

(Voices and Visions artwork courtesy of The Home For Little Wanderers)

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