BRATTLEBORO -- When Mollie Burke told the children in this year's Clark-Canal Community Association Summer Camp that they would be painting a mural in the Brattleboro Transportation Center, Deja Chase, 9, was given a simple task.
"We were supposed to paint stuff that transportates," she said as she held an egg carton filled with paint. "We're supposed to paint things that move stuff."
Deja was one of a handful of campers who were beginning work on the mural Thursday as part of Burke's Art in the Neighborhood program.
The Clark-Canal Community Association Summer Camp won the competitive bid to paint the wall after submitting an idea that portrays the various ways that people get around in Brattleboro.
The eight panels show a train, a horse, a bicycle, and Deja's choice, a boat.
"It's the first interesting thing I thought of," she said about her choice. "I feel good that people will be looking at this while they wait for a bus."
Burke, a local artist and state representative for Brattleboro's second district, founded Art in the Neighborhood in 2008 to help bring professional art workshops into underserved neighborhoods.
Brattleboro is full of art, dance, photography, drama and music schools, but even with the generous scholarships that many of the organizations offer, some children never get an opportunity to attend.
Burke said she started Art in the Neighborhood to bring those classes into
Through a variety of grants, and donations, Burke has been able to pay artists for the classes and provide the children in the neighborhoods with the same high level of instruction that the various art schools and organization around town offer.
"The aim is to bring tuition free art classes to underserved populations in a community setting," Burke said. "We want to expose them to artists and to different art forms. We want to make those benefits of Brattleboro being a cultural center available to kids who are not able to benefit from that."
Throughout the year, Burke hosts an after school art program with the Westgate Community Association and in the summer she leads the art workshop during the summer program at the Clark Canal Association.
For the Transportation Center mural, the group applied and competed with adult, professional artists.
About 15 children were involved with the Transportation Center project, from designing the panels to painting the walls.
Burke said she was cautious about getting their hopes up too high before they were selected.
When their design was chosen, Burke said excitement and enthusiasm for the project grew.
"The kids chose the themes and designed the mural, so they were really engaged with the whole project," Burke said. "They did a wonderful job. The kids, and parents are very excited."
Nick Ahlgren, 14, a counselor at the camp, said getting out around town has more worth than simply giving the younger children something to do.
"This helps teach them about right and wrong," he said as he touched up a painting of a train. "It is fun and helps them express their ideas but it also helps them become more adult-ish."
Burke agreed that the program extends beyond just giving the children experience creating art. Last summer the Clark Canal group painted a mural in the Hannah Cosman Room in the Brattleboro Municipal Center.
For some of the children, she said, it was their first visit to the town office.
And the recognition the group received showed that art is important and that the work they do is valued and important.
"Some of these kids are dealing with some very challenging issues and the whole purpose of this is to enhance the positive attributes of these neighborhoods," Burke said. "We want the community to connect with these kids and these kids to connect with their community."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.