Filed under: Fort Fisher by fortfisher on Monday, May 20th, 2013

A young boy ran a red crayon length wise across a blank sheet of paper. A faint image appeared.

“Use the side, like this, and press harder,” said Michael Van Hout, demonstrating the technique.

The more pressure the boy applied, the sharper the image. Scales. A fin. A snout. A smile spread across the child’s face as his etching revealed a full-bodied sea horse. “Cool,” he said.

Hundreds of visitors to the N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher enjoyed similar cool experiences during the DREAMS Community Arts Day on Saturday. Adults and children watched demonstrations by local teaching artists and created works of art inspired by the sea—fabric jelly fish, etchings, painted clay medallions, clay pottery.

In addition, ocean-inspired art of DREAMS of Wilmington students hung in the halls and on the wall of the Aquarium— giant jellyfish with textile tentacles, mosaic sea turtles, painted dolphin and more. These pieces illustrate the skills and knowledge gained by the young people during a year-long partnership between the Aquarium and the Wilmington-based non-profit.

DREAMS is dedicated to providing youth in need with high-quality, free instruction in the literary, visual, multimedia and performing arts.

“This partnership is another step in expanding the Aquarium’s community and cultural role, and integrating art – outside of our living collection – to help interpret the sea around us,” says Aquarium Director Peggy Sloan. “DREAMS students experienced Aquarium camps and outreach. They experienced the ocean and used these experiences to create beautiful art. Now their interpretation of the sea will help place art in the hearts and minds of Aquarium visitors.” .

DREAMS Community Arts Day and the Aquarium collaboration were privately funded through National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program. Twenty three Program participants invested between $250 and $1,000 through an on-line investment marketplace.