When words aren’t enough, make art. That’s the lesson taught by artist Jodye Beard-Brown, who spent six Saturdays working with Humble ISD students affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“Our goal was to give kids the tools to bounce back from disaster through art, theater, and sports therapy,” said Beard-Brown. “Some of these kids lost everything. Others have disabilities, such as autism. But what struck me was how positive everyone was. They were all eager and excited to learn.”
Beard-Brown began teaching last fall as a volunteer instructor with HOPE Worldwide’s SPARK Academy. The program, created in 2013 in response to Hurricane Sandy, focuses on art, theater, and sports therapy. Thanks to a recent grant from the American Red Cross, HOPE Worldwide brought the program to three Houston-area school districts in 2018 and 2019.
“Students were affected in different ways by Harvey. Some had to be rescued, and many had homes that flooded,” said Maria Rollins, director of HOPE Worldwide’s SPARK Academy. “Those that didn’t flood were also affected.”
Before the program started, Rollins and the SPARK team had to recruit and train expert volunteers in each of the three subjects. Although Rollins found no shortage of willing participants, Beard-Brown was her first choice to teach art at Humble Elementary.
“I’ve seen Jodye’s art around Houston, so I was familiar with her artistic talent,” she said. “I actually went to one of her art shows and saw several of her pieces on display.”
Rollins was especially intrigued by Beard-Brown’s work with mosaics, an art form she knew would interest children.
“Originally, I just wanted to pick her brain about these different projects and find out what she thought,” Rollins said. “I know that piecing things together is very therapeutic, whether it’s mosaics or puzzles. So I reached out to her, knowing she was an amazing, wonderful artist, and just like that, she volunteered.”
The pair brainstormed and came up with an idea to allow fourth- and fifth-grade students to create a mosaic that could become a permanent art display in the community. After searching for well-known Humble locations, they stumbled upon Jesse H. Jones Park & Nature Center. When they learned the park was also severely affected by Hurricane Harvey, the duo knew they had found the perfect location.
“I thought it was important to display the mosaics that the kids created in the community,” said Beard-Brown. “So we started to scout some places, and Jones Park was one of the first places we visited. As soon as we entered the park, we knew it was the place.”
After receiving permission to place the mosaics at the park, Beard-Brown worked with SPARK Academy students to create four custom mosaics highlighting Jones Park wildlife. Visitors can now see the mosaics decorating the information display near the front of the park.
“Jones Park is so close to the school, and it’s part of the community,” said Rollins. “That was an important factor for the kids to feel ownership. Now they can share their work with friends and family.”
Jones Park Director Darlene Conley said the mosaic also symbolizes the park’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey, which caused flooding throughout 90% of the park, including the Nature Center.
“This is the perfect project for our park, which was also severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” she said. “These mosaics are proof that we can heal and come back stronger than before.”