Shining a spotlight on the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program: Kuba Textile Project

Kuba textile project shines a spotlight on the ‘kings and queens’ of Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program

When the Covid-19 pandemic pushed The Mint Museum to temporarily close its doors in spring of 2020, the Mint’s Learning & Engagement team turned hands-on art classes into virtual Create-at-Home art kits that included art supplies and instructions, as well as information that ties the art project back to works of art in The Mint Museum’s collection. One of the first kits created was how to make a Kuba-style T-shirt based on Kuba textiles in the Mint’s collection.

Children in the Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program used the Kuba-style T-shirt kits to create T-shirts that showcase their individual styles and artistic talents. Alexandra Brown, a 10th-grade honor student at Myers Park High School, and teen leader at the Mint, created the video above that captures what the Grier Heights students created using the Kuba-style T-shirt kits.

Kuba Textiles

The Kuba people are part of approximately 16 Bantu speaking groups living in the southeastern Congo in central Africa. Kuba textiles are handwoven using strands from raffia palm trees with earth-tone designs created using vegetable dyes. Kuba cloth is known for its complex, bold geometric designs that have been carried through generations for ceremonial purposes.

Want to make your own Kuba-style T-shirt? Download the instructions here. 

The Mint Supports a Donor’s Desire to Give Back

One of the recipient families shows off the bag that can be filled with groceries from nearby Food Lion store No. 971.

The Mint supports a donor’s desire to give back

By Rubie Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations

The Mint Museum recently provided over $2,000 in gift cards and reusable Food Lion grocery bags to families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded by an anonymous donor and Food Lion Stores, the cards were given to families of the students of the museum’s 16-year old Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program, and to members in the west Charlotte community.

A generous gift of $1,500 was given by an anonymous donor to purchase 50 Food Lion cards in denominations of $35, $25, and $20 at the north Wendover Road Food Lion store near the Grier Heights community. The Mint shared the effort with Millette Granville, vice president of talent, diversity and inclusion, learning and organizational development for Food Lion, a U.S. division of Zaandam-based Royal Ahold Delhaize Group. The company quickly responded with an additional $500 in $25 gift cards, two cases of reusable tote bags to help the family recipients, and facilitation with store No. 971 to process the cards.

Each family received a tote bag, gift card, and note from the Mint Museum.

“As a child, I grew up in similar challenging yet overcoming circumstances in a Charlotte housing project. I want to give back, and see that the students and families have access to having their temporal needs met, as well as to education and memorable experiences,” wrote the anonymous donor. “You all are doing good community work at the museum and I knew you could successfully facilitate our desire to help families who are trying to hold it together.”

The donations not only helped the Grier Heights community, it supported families of the McCrorey YMCA after-school program and citizens temporarily displaced at two YMCA camps in west Charlotte.  Thirty bags and cards were delivered to the McCrorey YMCA, led by Executive Director Dena Jones, a former Mint docent and student of retired Mint master art teacher Rita Schumaker. Jones noted the great need of families there and those displaced.” These 30 cards and bags will be a blessing to them all, and we appreciate it. Hunger is real, even in Charlotte,” Jones says.

The Mint’s program teen team leader Alex Brown and her mother, Stacey Price Brown, PhD, president of the Grier Heights Community Improvement Organization, have deep roots in the community. They delivered the 43 bags to families during Mother’s Day weekend.

Mint Museum Community Youth Arts Program teen leader Alex Brown delivers a Food Lion tote bag and gift card to a family.

“The Grier Heights community embraces four core values: self-sufficiency, education, empowerment and family! Through our partnership with the Mint Museum you empower our families to educate themselves about their history, their cultures and their health so that they can be model citizens of self-sufficiency for themselves, their families and their communities. Through this COVID-19 pandemic, you have not stopped honoring our community’s core values by sharing care packages, Food Lion gift cards and inspiring messages to empower and educate our families to stay safe and healthy,” Brown says. “We are very thankful for partnerships and neighbors like you who have invested in our community for over 15 years, and the return on your investment has produced many youth and families who are healthier individuals mentally, physically and emotionally so that they, collectively, can go into our society making it a more livable, equitable and just place.”

Dr. Stacey Price Brown, president of the Grier Heights Community Improvement Association, gets ready to deliver 43 Food Lion tote bags and gift cards within the community.

 

Grier Heights Community Arts Program Graduate Joins AmeriCorps

Bre’Anna Washington credits the Mint’s program with leading her to serve others

By Rebecca Morgan, Mint Museum Intern

Not far from Mint Museum Randolph’s historic home is a neighborhood whose challenges led the Mint in 2003 to create the Grier Heights Community Arts Program to offer after-school alternatives to students who may be living in challenged environments.

This year, the program celebrated a success story with a graduate whose experience led her to feel called to serve and educate young people.

Bre’Anna Washington, 19, is following her calling by joining the AmeriCorps VISTA Program, where she will be tutoring, counseling, and mentoring students. AmeriCorps is a national service program that places young people at roles in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based programs around the country.

 

“True greatness is measured by service’ is something I’m proud to say I learned from The Mint Museum’s Grier Heights Program”

 

said Washington, who participated throughout her youth while growing up near the Grier Heights community.

When asked what inspired her to join AmeriCorps, Washington says: “It wasn’t by inspiration at first. I was looking for scholarships for my school, and AmeriCorps just popped up, I clicked the link and watched what these people do. In AmeriCorps, their principle is to bridge the gap between student and potential.” With a laugh, she added: “And I think that’s wonderful.”

The idea of bridging gaps is core to Rubie Britt-Height, who leads the Grier Heights Community Arts Program as the Mint’s Director of Community Relations.

“This program uses the Mint’s collection and exhibitions as a springboard to creativity”

 

to allow dialogue and activities that encourage self and mutual respect, making wise choices, being confident and an engaged servant leader, and having a high standard of excellence in all things,” she said. “Bre’Anna Washington is one of the program’s shining stars.”

“I’m excited to meet new people and spread light to new people,” said Washington, who’s currently a sophomore Dean’s List student at Fayetteville State University. Following her AmeriCorps VISTA Fellowship, she hopes to become a middle school history teacher and eventually a professor.

Washington says the Grier Heights Program taught her how to live a healthy life, think critically, and make smart choices. However, the most important thing the program taught her, she said, is “to be who you are. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who your parents are, it’s about growing and learning within yourself, and taking pride in yourself, taking pride in your health, and taking pride in your intellect.”

Washington says she is grateful for the program and those who run it. “I don’t think I would be here without the Grier Heights Program and without my mentors in the program.”

Added Britt-Height: “She always showed great promise in our program: writing thoughtful poetry, creating mixed media art, serving as team leader, and setting an example for the other students. She’s going to be a very relevant change agent and community leader.”

Says Washington: “The program taught me how to make my life what I want it to be, which is filled with art, knowledge, growth, and sharing that with others.”

 

Want to know more?

Learn more about the Grier Heights Community Arts Program or the Mint’s numerous community outreach programs and initiatives, by visiting mintmuseum.org/community .

This article appeared in the Fall + Winter 2015 issue of The Mint Museum’s member magazine, Inspire. Want a copy? Visit either museum location or call 704.337.2009.