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Youth group takes a trip to GO Art! and Peru

By Joanne Beck

A creamy casserole resembling layered lasagna with a Peruvian twist, and a sweet finale of cinnamon-dusted milk custard, wedged between a tour of an arts facility and hands-on exercises of creative works.

Not too shabby of a school day for a group of 13 students visiting GO Art! Wednesday in Batavia.

The day was part of a Youth Bureau Genesee Youth Leadership program organized by Program Coordinator Chelsea Elliott. The program offers a different each month from October through May, and February is about Arts and Culture. Elliott worked with GO Art! staff for the artistic component, and staff, in turn, reached out to members of the Peruvian Outreach Project to provide the cultural aspect.

“And they did all the behind-the-scenes work. They are the ones that thought of who would cook the meal and what the culture would be. And I let them kind of run with it. Because I knew that they would have the best connections to make this day be the best for our kids,” Elliott said after the cooking demonstration. “So each month we focus on different topics. We begin at BOCES, that's our home base. And then we go out to the community for the rest of the day, basically, for them to learn more about their community. What happens behind the scenes … a lot of these kids don't even know anything about art until today. So it's opening their eyes to other things that go on in the community, other than just what goes on in their own little towns.

"We always hope that … they can go back to their schools and tell their peers, ‘there's this great program that's in the community, you know, we should get more involved,’" she said. "Because, again, if they don't know about it, they don't know about it.”

The group of 13 students represented grades nine through 12 in five different school districts of Batavia, Byron-Bergen, Le Roy, Alexander and Oakfield. GO Art! Executive Director Gregory Hallock gave them a tour of the East Main Street facility, and Christian Houlihan of the Peruvian Outreach Project talked about his experience as an orphan who was adopted and brought to the United States and now travels back to Peru to assist his native homeland.

The students were then seated next to the kitchen while Veronica Collantes demonstrated how to assemble the authentic causa rellena dish of layered potatoes with lemon oil, chicken salad, and avocados. A dish piled high and a bright yellow, it was then served for lunch as Latin-themed music played in the background.

The kids were also given a cup of inca kola, a sugary yellow Peruvian drink, and topped off their meals with leche asada, a creamy milk custard. Elliott described it as similar to a rice pudding. No one left much on their plates or in the dessert glasses.

“It’s good, I never had anything like it,” 15-year-old Mary Engelhardt said.

Mary has known for a while now that she wants to go into law enforcement and become a deputy, so when Elliott recommended that she apply for the leadership program, that’s just what the Le Roy 10th-grader did. Other program topics include criminal justice, community service, and agriculture. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out Mary’s favorite outing so far: criminal justice, which included a visit to the jail.

“I’ve been before, but I liked it. It’s just what I want to do,” she said. “Today has been very interesting. I’m not interested in art, but it’s interesting.”

Neither Mary nor Elijah Loysen, a ninth-grader from Oakfield, had ever been to the GO Art! building. Elijah enjoyed the visit, he said.

“I think the art and ambiance of the building and the colors are aesthetically pleasing,” he said.

Kathy Houlihan wanted to educate the kids about Peru and the outreach project, while also potentially recruiting a few volunteers for future events, including a dinner and basket raffle in March at GO Art!.

“If anyone likes chopping vegetables, we could use the help,” she said. 

After lunch, the students were going to meet up with artists Susan Ferrari Rowley and Gaitrie Subryan for some hands-on experience. This type of visit from the Youth Bureau only happens once a year, Education Director/SCR Coordinator Mary Jo Whitman said.

“It's very exciting. A lot of people don't realize that our building is open to the public. So having them come in and realizing, okay, well, this is actually a really cool building,” Whitman said. “There's a lot of artwork, and we have a ton of programming, a lot of stuff that might be actually interesting to them.”

Top Photo of Veronica Collantes demonstrating how to make causa rellena; Kathy Houlihan serving leche asada; students enjoying lunch at GO Art!; and watching the demonstration in between a tour and hands-on art project. Photos by Joanne Beck.

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