Houses ART

The vision for the Houses Art project is to engage a diverse group of artists in creative partnership with Arts Habitat and to connect their work with one another through a collective investigation and expression of creativity, community and home. The first phase of the program is intended to create an opportunity for students and their work to be connected to a larger community in Monterey County and will thereby become a tangible part of the legacy of building an arts community at East Garrison.

Houses Art, Phase I

The first phase of Houses Art was implemented during the fall of 2007, with three local partnering educational institutions.

Johanna Poethig, Professor of Painting and Public Art at the California State University, Monterey Bay, Visual and Public Art Department, incorporated the theme of house and place into her curriculum and engaged fourteen painting and mural students in the project. Together they created five collaborative paintings that explore diverse expressions of home.

Professor Robynn Smith from the Monterey Peninsula College took the theme of house and home into two of her classrooms. Over 40 students enrolled in Color Fundamentals and Advanced Painting classes participated in the creation of four House canvases.

Cathy Findley, Coordinator of the Arts Careers Academy and Catherine Melone, Monterey High School teacher, both embraced the concept of the Houses Art Project and introduced it, and Arts Habitat to the entire Arts Careers Academy student body (approximately 120 students). Three collaborative paintings emerged from Ms. Melone’s art class and two more were guided to fruition by teaching artist Sue Ann Hillyer, who worked with seniors and in the after school program.

Arts Habitat provided a total of 14 blank large-scale canvases to our partners to create collaborative paintings. Each canvas is fabricated in two pieces, a large 5’ x 5’ square with a 2’ 5” triangle above. The title “Houses Art” and the house-shaped canvas format evoke the new live/work and studio spaces being developed at East Garrison and are a reminder of the historic tent city, which once housed soldiers there.

When presenting the project to these young artists, Arts Habitat’s Program Director, Denese Sanders engaged them in a brainstorming dialogue about the value of creativity in daily life and the environments that support or allow the creative process. What is the difference between a house and a home; a place and a community? The notion of place morphs into the meaning of community. Eliciting qualities in their own communities that either encourage or impede creative endeavor personalizes the concept for the students. Some of the qualities that these students feel are necessary to develop a supportive, creative community include respect, a willingness to work together, leadership, honesty, privacy, acceptance, open-mindedness, love, humor, productivity, and communication.


To further lay the foundation for the vision of Houses Art, the students are lead through a poem writing exercise using a poem framework intended for community building, written and designed by Abriendo Caminos. The framework helps them describe a special place (home) in their lives. The resulting poems are a diverse and moving mixture of love, insight, humor and reflection (see below). They can be used as source material for context and imagery in the collaborative painting that follows. Each artist/educator working with her students added her own curricular and artistic guidance to the project, allowing multiple interpretations and insights to occur.


Monterey High School Student,
Arts Careers Academy Student | Aug. 07

Whenever I say Art
I think of freedom to express myself
I see a pencil with everywhere to go
I hear a beautiful and sad song
I smell clean air and open space
I feel like changing the world
Now, whenever I say art
I will always remember me

Monterey High School Student,
Anonymous |Aug. 07

Whenever I say blue chicken
I think of that one blue chicken
I see that one chicken’s bravery
I hear that chicken’s proudness
I smell that chicken’s creativity
I feel that chicken’s emotions
Now, whenever I say blue chicken
I will always remember who I am