For One Young Artist, a Pathway to Discovery and Self-Fulfillment
At age five, Othello Adjepong wasn’t quite connecting with his piano lessons. When his teacher noticed his music books were filled with doodles and began making connections to music through visual art, his parents sought out Fleisher to enhance his visual learning style. Now 13, Othello has thrived and he plans on seeking a career in the visual arts. We caught up with his mother, Tiffany, this week to see what impact Fleisher’s classes has had on her family and why she thinks Fleisher’s programs for young artists are so vital.
Othello has been attending Fleisher’s Saturday classes for young artists for quite a while now. Can you tell us a little more about how you found about the program?
Othello was 5 years old and he was taking piano lessons and lacked enthusiasm. Othello’s piano teacher connected with his interest in art when she saw his piano book was filled with doodle marks everywhere. Therefore, in order to reach him, she allowed Othello to draw the notes and recreate the music on paper before touching the keys.
The director of Settlement Music School in Germantown told us about Fleisher’s art classes for children and how Othello would benefit from this experience and the rest is history. Othello is now 13 years old and has been exposed to a wide range of several different art mediums because of the programs offered at Fleisher.
Othello, currently studying clay sculpture with Tom Thomas, with one of his works in Fleisher’s glazing studio. Photo by Chip Schwartz.
How have you seen Othello change since he started coming to Fleisher?
The visual arts have given him his voice and confidence in society. The Saturday program has truly been a blessing for Othello and it has led him to make the visual arts a lifelong career choice.
Othello is a visual learner who sees the world quite differently, which has affected his academics. Instructors who acknowledge his visual learning style create a better learning environment for Othello to thrive. My husband and I had to choose a school that not only focuses on academic excellence but also has a wonderful art program that definitely motivates Othello to do well in school.
Othello is currently in the seventh grade and is an honor roll student. This semester at Fleisher he is currently taking ceramics and loving every minute of it. Fleisher’s Saturday Young Artist program not only offers enriching art experiences but it also allows Othello to meet other young artists that share the same passion.
What’s his favorite medium to work in and why?
Last semester Othello took recycled art and he had a blast. I think it’s because it gives him the creative space to change a milk carton or laundry container into beautiful works of art. Othello does not like to leave anything around the house, whether it is clothes, boxes, or furniture, in its original state. Something is always missing or just needs his artistic touch. Othello’s artistry can be somewhat frustrating and yet something kind of wonderful to experience.
“The visual arts have given him his voice and confidence in society. The Saturday program has truly been a blessing for Othello and it has led him to make the visual arts a lifelong career choice.”
You mentioned that your other son, Osiris, just began attending classes. Have you seen any impact on him so far?
Osiris really surprised me because I thought music and sports were more his thing, but it has been three years and Fleisher’s classes have really allowed Osiris to think out of the box and explore his creativity.
I see it more and more. Recently, at his school, he was asked to draw a city on construction paper. However, Osiris asked for more construction paper to create a three-dimensional pop-up city where the only flat surface was the street. The cars, house, church, and store popped up and stood up on their own.
Osiris’ teachers are very impressed with how focused he is on art-based projects and that is because of the impact and exposure the Saturday Young Artist Program provides. My son gets to be as creative as he can be by enjoying creating art pieces and making new friends.
Othello at work in the ceramics studio. Photo by Chip Schwartz.
Why do you, as a parent, think Fleisher’s programs for kids and young adults are important?
Four years ago I was teaching at an urban charter school that did not offer visual arts, and I was a mentor to a graduating senior who was in dire need of an internship. My student, Blair Thompson, was an incredible visual artist without any formal training, so I spoke on his behalf about an internship at Fleisher. Fortunately, Blair was able to do his internship at Fleisher and did such an amazing job that he even volunteered during Saturday classes as well. The following fall, Blair was accepted to the University of San Francisco, majoring in art.
When I ran into Blair a year later, he spoke about how amazing his college experience was and how he felt so far behind because most of the students had experience in multiple mediums. He said that the young artists at Fleisher were so fortunate to be able to explore and experience all of the many different mediums in art. Just imagine how Blair could have thrived if he experienced Fleisher’s Saturday program when he was younger.
This program is important to me as a parent and educator of a young artist. It allows young artists to eventually open the door to a possible career choice, and it creates more knowledgeable citizens that appreciate art and fund art programs. Fleisher’s programs are important because they create advocates and young artists who are passionate about art.
Be a part of Fleisher’s impact
As one of the oldest nonprofit community art schools in the country, Fleisher serves nearly 20,000 adults and young artists annually. Your generous support allows Fleisher to sustain its nationally recognized programming that provides enriching, hands-on learning opportunities in a supportive, inspiring environment where our region’s best artists and faculty teach and exhibit their work. Your gift will also enable Fleisher to deepen its work to integrate arts into our increasingly under-resourced public schools and provide tuition-assistance to the increasing number of students in need. Support Fleisher’s mission and make a gift today.