ArtsPath Residency Inspires At-Risk Youth in Butler County

Posted on 8/20/2012 11:33:48 AM
Clown Artist Jeff Gordon in Costume

Following last summer’s residency with painter and muralist Bernie Wilke, ArtsPath interdisciplinary artist Jeff Gordon recently completed a highly successful residency at the MHY Family Services in Mars, Pennsylvania.

Through the art and tradition of clowning, the 44 youths participating in the 10-day residency tackled issues of stage fright, interpersonal communication, and small group organization, and even overcame a tremendous fear of clowns as they developed basic physical comedy skills, skits, their own clown persona, and eventually performed for an audience.

Said MHY Development Manager Amy Smith, “What a thrill it was to watch the process unfold and see firsthand how the youth on campus embraced this discipline and committed themselves to it with enthusiasm.”

When asked what was most useful about the art of clowning for the Mars participants, Gordon said that “the physicality and laughter was a great diversion from the therapy they were undergoing.”

Gordon’s down-to-earth style of guiding the students while still allowing them to explore their own creative playfulness was in no small part a major reason for the residency’s success. Using various exercises, he found that the youth responded well in an environment of playful improvisation. Said one resident, “we need something like this,” while another mentioned that the project created a sense of family amongst a group of youth who are completely lacking in conventional kinships.

Clown Artist Jeff Gordon during Mars HFY Residency

A Pittsburgh native, Gordon graduated from Ringling Brothers renowned Clown College in 1979 and joined the Big Apple Circus shortly after in 1981 where he developed “Clown Gordoon,” his own, and most famous clown persona. After an extensive touring career throughout the world, he returned to Pittsburgh where his classes, workshops, and residencies are in great demand as participants find themselves transformed from audience to entertainers as they find their own inner ability and confidence through power of laughter.

This residency was brought to MHY Family Services by ArtsPath, the arts-in-education program of the Lively Arts in the College of Fine Arts at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and in partnership with the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. For more information, visit Mars HFY Family Services or call Amy Smith 724-625-3141.