PCAH and Honorary Chair First Michelle Obama Create a Gift of Art for Military FamiliesPCAH and Honorary Chair First Michelle Obama Create a Gift of Art for Military Families

First Lady Michelle Obama and more than 25 congressional spouses joined with youth from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling to carry out a community service project on May 19.  Guided by students from the Corcoran School of Art and Design, the youth worked with Mrs. Obama and her guests on a mural for the base’s youth center, as well as a dozen benches. The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) designed the service project for its Honorary Chair Mrs. Obama and spouses from the Congressional Club. The event came a day after the Congressional Club's annual luncheon. 

PCAH and Honorary Chair First Michelle Obama Create a Gift of Art for Military FamiliesA young man from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling  provides artistic advice to First Lady Michelle Obama and PCAH Executive Director Rachel Goslins on decorating a bench during a community service project. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Steele C. G. Britton)
Mrs. Obama greeted the young people and the other guests and thanked them for being part of this tribute to the families of the men and women who serve in the military.  She said, “The effort that Jill Biden and I have put together, Joining Forces, truly is for you all because we know you guys sacrifice so much. I mean, it makes me feel good to know that you have such a wonderful community center, that you have such strong child and youth programs, because the children and families need it. … And I continue to urge all Americans to find ways to be a part of these types of programs, to reach out and help. They’re all over the country.”

After her remarks, adults and children spread out across the room focusing on the walls and benches that had been prepped by the Corcoran art students over the previous week. Tables with bundles of brushes and overflowing with cups of bright greens, blues and oranges lined one side of the room. Although some were concerned about staying within the lines of what was suggested, imagination and creativity soon took over. Sunrises became entwined with ropes of green vine, gigantic blueberries took shape amongst the flowers and in one case the decorative became an abstract expression of youthful enthusiasm for color. Mrs. Obama and her guests worked side by side with the kids and they left them a thank you note in the form of a bench signed by First Lady and her friends.

The event at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling was the last in a recent series of events involving the President’s Committee, focusing on arts education and its critical role in the development of young people and dynamic schools.  Executive Director Rachel Goslins in her introduction of the First Lady mention the recent release PCAH landmark study Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future, which presents data and research on the arts as a key to success in school. The study’s release coincided with an all-day poetry workshop at the White House with Mrs. Obama, involving more than 100 students brought together by the PCAH as the culmination of its three month-long poetry workshop with 826DC, a nonprofit organization that helps students ages 6-18 develop writing skills.

“By our work here today,” said Goslins, “we affirm the belief that the arts can be used to bring communities together and create places of beauty that inspire both the heart and the mind.” What was once large common room of white walls was transformed by this community effort into a bright and festive space that reminds kids to dream big.