Every week, Wendy Murphy travels around the area teaching art classes to children at housing authorities, after-school programs and Boys and Girls Clubs. On Thursdays, she teaches at the Thomson Boys and Girls Club.
"This group is fabulous," Ms. Murphy said. "They're getting a lot out of it because they embrace it. There are a lot of creative kids here."
Sponsored by the Art Factory, the grant-funded class lasts three hours, and attendance is voluntary. When she arrives in Thomson each week, Ms. Murphy said, the children are always waiting for her, and they stay for the duration of the class.
"So they must love it," she said. "I think that works out better because it gives them time to explore what they want to do and truly express themselves."
Expressing oneself is the name of the game in art, and it's what makes it more appealing than other academic activities.
"There's no right way or wrong way. It's just their own creation," Ms. Murphy said.
The eight to 10 children in the Thomson class just completed an "imagination zoo" project, in which they drew random, imaginary creatures they'd never heard of or seen before.
"It was like something out of a Dr. Seuss book," explained Markell Whitfield, 11. "I liked the 'steaming zurg' the best."
For several weeks, Ms. Murphy called out creatures, including "four-legged nergle," "giant goofy daisy," "hopeless flopper" or "lone tail squirrel," for the children to imagine and then illustrate on paper. The finished pictures are displayed on a wall at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital for patients.
"I think they'll be inspiring for them and creative for everybody to see," said Cariana Little, 10.
"I think they will be inspired by the art and want to make their own."
Last week, Ms. Murphy introduced a print by internationally renowned artist Jonathan Green, who lives in South Carolina. Green's art is "cosmopolitan and modern, yet steeped in the traditions of family life in the Southern United States," according to his Web site.
Titled The Congregation, the brightly colored picture depicts a church service in which the people's features are muted. Ms. Murphy instructed the children to choose a member of the congregation, draw that person's portrait, and write a paragraph describing the person's thoughts.
The children will spend the next few weeks putting their individual drawings together into a collage for a Congregation of their own. It, too, will be exhibited at MCG Hospital.
Ms. Murphy said they will further the congregation study by tracing a life-size outline of each student in the class, filling in their own details and putting them together for a life-size congregation.
"I love art, and I love the kids," she said.
"They bring out the kid in me, and we just have a good time."