Summertime Art

The Open Doors Prizing Your Power Summer Art Program continues.  It’s simply so fun to support teens as they explore different ways to express themselves.  We do it during our regular program, as an alternative to school, and now we’re doing it with our summer program, exploring how together we can create art to enrich our community.  Join our fun and enjoy the photos!

Fabric Art:  Towel Origami, featuring Mythical Creatures

Pink towel elephant
Meet Terry the Pink Elephant. (Get it? Terry? Terrycloth? We knew you got it.)
Towel Loch Ness Monster
Hello Nessie! (Questions we ask ourselves: would a Loch Ness monster made of terrycloth soak up all the water in the lake/loch?)
Towel King Kong
King Kong lives! (Extra Absorbent Version)

Nature Art

Acorns and husks
Nature Art: Starting Small
Goldsworthy inspired
Inspired by Goldsworthy — Nature Art
Inspired by Goldsworthy -- Nature Art
Creating and contemplating …
Parking Lot creation -- Inspired by Goldsworthy -- Nature Art
Art is everywhere and anywhere.

If you’re looking for educational options that respect teens — if you want to support those teens as they explore self-expression — if you’re looking for a community who can help you grow in these directions  — contact us.

Let the Prizing Begin!

The Open Doors Summer Art Program, Prizing Your Power, began today.  This week, we’ll be getting familiar with different media for creating art — painting, fabric, words, and more.  Here are some pictures of today’s goings-on —

We doodled while we got to know each other in the Gathering Room …
Then it was time to explore with India ink …
India ink
India ink with different brushes …
India ink on different papers, plus the start of a canvas piece …
Everyone thought it was a great space in which to be creative …
painted mannequin head with chess board
Yep, it’s looking to be a great summer program!

As we all grow more playful and comfortable with our creativity, the plan is to explore how art is power, and how we can communicate our passion through our art to the community.   Stay tuned!

Prizing Your Power is supported in part by the Wege Foundation as part of the Open Doors “Your Life — Your Learning!” project.


“A Little Genius In Every Madman”

Joey Ramone of The Ramones was always “different.” (image credit: Adam Louttit)

In our culture, when a teen is really different, the adults in his life often feel a crushing pressure to try to fix him and to get him to conform.  “How will he ever succeed in this world?” we ask.

Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh, had this to say about how his brother’s unique gifts were supported:

“Fortunately for my brother, our mother was an incredibly nourishing person, and raised us in such a way to never think of any individual as useless because they may not be on a par with the status quo. That because a person might be struggling with whatever mental or physical condition they have been afflicted with, it does not mean they have absolutely nothing within them to offer society, or to contribute, be it artistically or another way. She instilled that in me, and though it was very difficult to grow up sharing a room with someone turning lights on and off, running the water in the bathroom for hours and hours, unable to throw things away; or to walk to school with him as he stepped on and off the curb while the other kids pointed and laughed- due to the way my mother raised me I was about as sensitive as a younger brother could possibly be.

“If I had been like a jock, or macho type of kid, I don’t think he would have fared as well. I’ll admit I lost it several times, but l never treated him as a hopeless lump of flesh. I encouraged him as much as possible, taught him how to play the guitar, and encouraged him to get into bands.

“When he found himself unable to deal with his problem and felt suicidal, he voluntarily admitted himself to St Vincent’s Psychiatric Ward for evaluation. That was when I told him ‘don’t worry, there’s a little genius in every madman.’

“We were not your average family. Our parents got divorced when we were very young. Our mother was an artist who encouraged us to recognize and express our individuality. I knew we were different from the other kids. My brother was not normal, and we lived in the same room, so neither was I. It was impossible for me to be. I shared his problems right along side him, and knew I had to, like it or not. We were both freaks. Fortunately he was able to tap into his inner strengths and realize them, unleash the incredible talent he had within him, and was in an environment that allowed him to thrive. And as fate would have it, thanks to rock & roll, it worked out pretty damn well for him.”

Supporting and accepting a teen for being exactly who he or she is — that’s where it all starts at Open Doors, whether it’s through our regular program or our Summer Art Program.  There are many, many ways to be in the world — many ways to make a living, and many ways to contribute.  Help us explore these many ways with our teens:  donate or contact us to find out more.


Searching for Summer Camp?

Summer Program Cartoon
Searching for Summer Camp — Comic by Adena Koslek 

Prizing Your Power

This Open Doors Summer Camp is like no other.

Create Art.  Change the World.  All in Six Weeks.

Who:  Any Teen in the Grand Rapids Area –  Age 12 to 18

No Previous Art Experience Required

When:  July 22 to August 28, Tuesdays through Thursdays, the center will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Come participate as much or as little as you want — you can still have your lazy summer days and make great art on the side.

What:  Collaborate with other teens to create art for community display during Art Prize.  Channel your passion for a social issue into powerful art. We believe that everyone can express their passions, whether or not they consider themselves artistic.

Come find the artist within!

 The Prizing your Power Summer Program and this post are part of the Open Doors “Your Life! — Your Learning!” series, brought to you with support from the Wege Foundation.


Slender: The Short Film

It’s here!

Hot on the heels of the world premiere (an intimate screening with family and friends in Eastown at our Festive Finale 2014), the teens at Open Doors now present the Internet debut of Slender:  The Short Film.  

You can read about the history of this Slender project, and about the process along the way.  You can also read our thoughts and concerns associated with the Wisconsin stabbing incident on May 30.

We couldn’t be more pleased with this project and the fun and learning it brought about.   It’s a great example of self-directed learning in action, and it’s what we’re all about here at Open Doors.

Sharing our Shine 2014

Each of our members have their own shine:  that is, something that they love to do, something they’ve worked hard at, and/or something that just makes them happy.  During our last week of the 2013-2014 Open Doors program, we gathered to share our shine with each other.

Wild Edibles pretty table
Our Wild Edibles Class prepared a foraged feast!
Close up Wild Edible
… a feast with a sense of humor, that is. (These are actually delicious.)
Japanese food
One member shared his love of all things Japan by bringing Japanese food.
game theory
It’s game theory time! This member explained his love of strategy and interaction by having the group play a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
Skyrim Mod
This member has been creating a mod for the video game Skyrim — he showed us his latest dungeon creations.
This guy showed us his awesome juggling skills.
Back Handspring
And one member showed us footage of her back handspring, done in her tumbling class.

In addition, we heard from one member who is learning on the job at an auto repair shop, and one member shared the love of her life, her little dog Chloe.   Staff and parents shared as well — poetry, perspectives on life, a dramatic reading.

We had such a great time celebrating each other.   At Open Doors, we are so honored to be a safe space where teens can share who they are and what they love, without worry that it will be “good enough.”  We love these teens!

Up next — our last day together, dedicated to fun!

A Note About Slender Man

Today at Open Doors we found out that on May 30, two twelve-year-old girls in Wisconsin stabbed their close friend, also a twelve-year-old girl.  The girls named the Slender Man legend and the Creepy Pasta fiction site as their inspiration.

All of us at Open Doors hope for a complete and speedy recovery for the victim, and our thoughts are with the families and the community involved.   It is a disturbing and horrible incident.

Though we can never know all the reasons behind these actions, we do know that the Slender Man legend (which has been around a long time) and the Creepy Pasta fiction site are not about this kind of real-life violence.  For the past six weeks, our teens have worked hard and with great creativity on our own informal Slender Man movie.  Our teens have worked in the true spirit of Slender Man — the spirit of fun, the spirit of surprise, and the spirit of sharing the thrill of being scared while knowing that this is fantasy and not reality. At this point, the teens plan to finish editing the movie in the spirit they created it.

Each of our teens expressed sadness about this incident and the sincere hope that there are no further tragedies.  They also expressed difficulty with the Slender Man legend being twisted in such a horrible way.  There has been a lot to talk about today at Open Doors, and we ask for your support as our teens process it all.

Please join us in our hope for peace and healing for all those, young and old, who need it.

Slender Man Update

(Note:  If you are concerned about the May 30 stabbing in Wisconsin and its relevance to Slender Man, please see our statement here.  Our thoughts are with all the families and communities involved, and we hope for a complete and speedy recovery for the victim.)

As you may remember, our Critical Thinking and Feeling class has been working on a movie after our Slender Man adventure.  A few weeks ago we went Goodwill shopping for part of Slender Man’s costume, to which we added a few minor modifications.

Slender Man suit

Strangely, Goodwill didn’t carry a Slender Man mask, so we made our own:

slender man


We’ve been scouting locations and here are some preliminary stills from the first day of shooting:



IMG_7617 IMG_7634


Stay tuned!

Spring at Open Doors

O wind, where have you been,
That you blow so sweet?
Among the violets
Which blossom at your feet.

The honeysuckle waits
For Summer and for heat
But violets in the chilly Spring
Make the turf so sweet.    

                                                                 – Christina Rossetti

The Open Doors teens have been enjoying spring by harvesting violets for salad and sap for syrup.

Violets and greens in salad — delicious!
eDSC_0038s Having a break while out foraging.
Boiling maple sap for a light, almost nutty syrup.

Meanwhile, our Writing Class has been going strong.  One of our members won first in her age bracket in the annual Poetry Contest sponsored by the Dyer-Ives Foundation.  The class has moved from poetry, to story, and now to essay.  Rossetti would approve.

Listening to another’s work.

As our regular year winds down, we look forward to sharing our six-week summer program, Prizing Your Power, an art and social justice program where teens can collaborate to make art about their favorite cause for community display.  Come in and see what we do!

Learning with Slender Man

(Note:  If you are concerned about the May 30 stabbing in Wisconsin and its relevance to Slender Man, please see our statement here.  Our thoughts are with all the families and communities involved, and we hope for a complete and speedy recovery for the victim.)

Last week in Open Doors’ Critical Thinking and Feeling class, instructor Adena Koslek decided to play the student.  She asked the class to design an activity that would bring her out of her shell, as her “student self” was feeling a bit anxious about participating, though underneath it all she really wanted to.

After some brainstorming, the class introduced “Shy Adena” to Slender Man, an Internet horror legend.

Can you see him in the back?

The class then encouraged Adena to play one of the Slender Man video games, which involve the player exploring a dark house or a landscape with only a flashlight, looking for signs to lead her to safety, only to have the Slender Man appear.  When he does, the player character’s vision warps as she meets her doom.

“Helpful” signs to follow — from Slender Man, Eight Pages.
Slender Man appears from the darkness — your vision blurs as you meet your doom.

The class then brought the game to life for their shy student.  Two members put up signs for Adena to follow around Eastown, ostensibly to bring her to safety, while one member, dressed in black, played the Slender Man, appearing just as she thought she was going to make it.

Slender Man in Eastown
Is he there?

The fun and thrill of being scared out of their wits inspired the class further, and they hope to develop a short horror film (in cooperation with their Film Studies class) for their end-of-the-year project.

Who knew that this is where the class would lead?  The journey of real-world learning is often so surprising, so laugh-out-loud fun.  It can start with the Internet as a window to the world — it can move into local community and creative endeavors.  It can be as thrilling and surprising as spotting Slender Man — one just never knows.

Slender:  The Short Film

The Making of Slender