Under the threat of bloated clouds Saturday on the front lawn of Grant Union High School, the children of Del Paso Heights danced, frolicked and hula hooped as if they didn’t have a care in the world.
“This community is recognized for negative things,” said Mervin Brookins as he watched his grandson Zair Brookins, 5, send a 10-foot bubble into the gray sky. “So anytime kids can come out and do something positive and creative, that’s a good thing. You can’t buy that kind of excitement.”
At the Crocker Art Museum’s first Block by Block party, a neighborhood came together. The high school and the surrounding neighborhood grieved when Pacers football player Jaulon “J.J.” Clavo was gunned down in the area last fall. On Saturday, Grant High transformed into a festival ground where families could find ribbon dancing, drumming circles, spoken word performances, a traveling Crocker exhibit and more. In the hallways, community groups and local artists set up shop to peddle information and goods.
Block by Block is a Crocker initiative that aims to bring art engagement to communities where it might otherwise be lacking, starting with Del Paso Heights. In June and July, museum staff will bring the eccentric block party to Oak Park and south Sacramento, neighborhoods where residents rarely make it to the downtown museum due to cost, time or transportation barriers, said Allen Warren, Sacramento City Councilman for District 2, which includes Del Paso Heights.
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Stacey Shelnut-Hendrick, director of education for the Crocker, said it’s important to reach those neighborhoods.
“As a museum we can’t just be about the building and what’s in the building – we need to be out where the people are,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that we offered our resources and expertise and art experiences out in the community. And we knew at the same time that the community was doing wonderful things in the arts, just maybe not in traditional ways. We wanted to meet everyone in the middle.”
The initiative began about 18 months ago with funding from the James Irvine Foundation, a California nonprofit group that promotes access to the arts. Block by Block distributed $10,000 apiece to artists in target neighborhoods based on a proposal process. In Del Paso Heights, artist Anthony Padilla received funding for Solar Poppy, an electronic sculpture at Grant High School that brings together themes of art and technology.
Davian Jones, an artist who had his work on display Saturday, said that the North Sacramento art scene has been moving forward as of late, but still has a long way to go.
“We need more of what they’re trying to do, but I definitely see that they’re trying,” he said of the city’s efforts to bolster the arts. “If you have a healthy art community, you have a more stable community – and that’s what we need to get back to.”
Yvonne Richardson, who attended the block party with her three grandchildren, said it’s important for parents to get their kids involved in positive neighborhood activities, especially when they are available for free.
On Saturday she helped her granddaughters craft flowers from yarn and pipe cleaners, and took them to the Police Department booth, where they received junior officer stickers. She noted that she would take them home from the block party early, worried that things would get rowdy later on.
“This is a bad area – crime is absolutely ridiculous here,” Richardson said. “I want the kids to know there are activities. I want them to see the police doing something good. It’s not like it’s all bad.”
Upcoming Block by Block parties
▪ Noon to 7 p.m. June 11, Steve Jones Park, 2331 Casa Linda Drive, Sacramento
▪ Noon to 7 p.m. July 9, Colonial Heights Library, 4799 Stockton Blvd., Sacramento