Every week, Mariaja Benton joins a Toledo Museum of Art glassblowing class to mold her lasting design and prove a larger point.
“They think we’re menaces. They think we’re troublemakers. They say we’re never going to be something,” she said of the general public. “But here we are learning something that most people don’t learn until they’re 20, 30 years old, and sometimes they don’t even learn at that age.”
Art After School participant Mikenzie Dayton, 15, fires the glass piece she has been working on in the furnce. Students were able to take part in a glassblowing class through the Toledo Art Museum's Art After School program.
The Benton youth, a 16-year-old Woodward High student, was among participants honored Wednesday at the museum’s GlasSalon. They enrolled in an innovative class through the Art After School program.
It provides hands-on instruction for those recommended by Lucas County Juvenile Court. The county commissioners and Toledo mayor’s office provided proclamations at the event.
The Benton youth said she loves the classes and appreciates teachers’ support. She created glass flowers, a mug, and bowl.
“It definitely keeps me out of trouble. We get to make pretty cool things. The skills we use — from how to work a furnace and how to make glass — you could turn this into a career eventually if that’s what you want to do,” she said.
About 42 students participated in the program over its two years, said Joe Szafarowicz, director of the Art Enrichment Program. He serves as liaison between the Juvenile Court and museum.
“What this is all about is art integration. We’ve been teaching art integration at the Juvenile Justice Center in detention for 13 years. We saw that teaching math, science, [and] language arts through art works,” Mr. Szafarowicz said.
Students from Youth Treatment Center and Lucas County Children Services also are invited for Wednesday sessions.
They learn glassblowing, teamwork, and self-confidence — skills that can carry the rest of their lives, said Regina Jankowski, who leads the museum’s Art After School program.
“You have to leave everything at the door. If you’re having a bad day, you’ve got a 2,000-degree molten glass at the end of that pipe. So, you have to be focused. You have to live in the moment,” Ms. Jankowski said.
Participants develop a rapport with their instructors too, she said.
For Sherry Whittington and her son, David Gresky, 15, the classes have been hugely beneficial. “It just brought him out of his shell,” Ms. Whittington said.
The Gresky youth called this course his favorite thing to do. He enjoys creating glass hearts and meeting his friends.
“I used to never like coming outside, or doing stuff with other people, but now I am all active and everything,” he said.
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