Opening Windows of Discovery

Opening Windows of Discovery

Art and nature are windows to discovery for youth from Sulphur Springs, a once-blighted neighborhood near downtown Tampa that is slowly revitalizing. Community Steppingstones offers local students creative pathways to self-expression through programs linking the arts and sciences. Classes are free, thanks to grants from organizations like the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, which helped fund “I Am River.”

For the six-month project, students explored the Hillsborough River by canoe and in classes, drawing on their impressions to create large collaborative murals. “Art helps them express themselves in a way that relates to their life experiences, says Belinda Cook, executive director of Community Steppingstones. “It’s a huge self-esteem builder, because in art there is no wrong way.”

Elements of personal, professional and social development are woven into each of its programs. And several students have gone on to pursue their master’s degree in arts.

“I Am River” is the first in a series of student murals that will be installed at a Rotary Camp in Brandon for disabled children, taking them on a journey around the world that begins on the Hillsborough River. Other Steppingstones murals grace the exterior of several Tampa buildings.

Did you know? A series of small “pocket” parks tucked into neighborhoods along the Hillsborough River are a welcome sanctuary for residents along the river’s urban sections.

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