The Hippo


Jul 22, 2019








Kids making art at the Inti Academy. Kelly Sennott photo.

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International appeal
Currier helps incorporate art into the Inti Soccer Academy

By Kelly Sennott

Julian Gutierrez, 13, was the first of his four siblings to join the Inti Soccer Academy five years ago. He liked it so much that his younger brother Lorenzo, 12, joined a year later, and shortly after, so did their siblings Joaquin, 11, and Sofia, 9.

Their father, Jorge Gutierrez, played the sport while growing up in Colombia, and whenever he’s not working, he loves watching the kids’ practices and games at Sheridan-Emmett Park in Manchester. If the Inti coaches need help, he sometimes fills in.
For families like theirs, the Inti Soccer Academy is invaluable. The nonprofit, which began in 2009, offers soccer programming free for underprivileged Manchester youth, but it’s more like an after-school program. The kids meet at Saint Anne’s Center once or twice a week, and between soccer practices, they get homework help from Inti staff and volunteers, and as of last year, they take classes taught by Currier Art Center faculty members. 
“I don’t have the money to put my kids through other programs,” Jorge Gutierrez said via phone. “And the kids have fun. … I was told my kids were born to play sports, but when they started doing the art, they felt so comfortable with that too.”
Most kids in the Inti Soccer Academy (“Inti” meaning sun, or vitality) are first- or second-generation Americans with families from all over the world, including West Africa, South America and the Middle East. Of all sports, co-founders Max Latona and Rodrigo Marion chose soccer for the academy because they felt it had the most international appeal.
But art, too, spans all languages and cultures; you don’t need to know perfect English to create a mask, painting or sculpture, and for the kids who don’t want to move on to the next level in soccer, art is another outlet.
Which is why the Inti Soccer Academy decided to partner with the Currier Art Center a year and a half ago. It runs four four-week sessions with the nonprofit, 16 weeks per year, as part of the Currier’s Artworks! In Schools outreach program, which is funded through numerous corporate, nonprofit and private donors.
At a recent visit to the Saint Anne’s Center, the Gutierrez family and their cousins, Miguel and Kiana Carpio, were creating bear silhouette paintings set against a sunset. The past few weeks, the kids had been making animal-themed art in conjunction with the Currier’s newest exhibition, “From Birds to Beast: Audubon’s Last Great Adventure.” They remembered making cups, masks and clay cats, which they enjoyed creating “because it was fun.” (The 3D projects are always a big hit, said Corie Lyford, who was teaching the classes with Holly Rosseau that day.) 
“We added on art because we saw how talented our kids tended to be in art. We wanted to give them another topic, another subject to focus on,” said Jaime Pendleton, who serves as the Inti Academy education director. “We also started giving out scholarships for the kids, to go to the Currier and actually take classes. … and attend the art camps.” (All the Gutierrez family had attended a Currier Art Center vacation camp, and the eldest would soon participate in the Currier’s “earn and learn” art program, in which they’ll work as teachers’ assistants this summer to pay for more art classes later on in the year.)
The Inti’s partnership with the Currier started with student Claude Kwizera, who joined Inti during its first year. He’d emigrated to the United States from Tanzania in 2007 and was very unhappy — but he was always doodling.
“We needed something to boost his self-esteem. He was also having some behavioral issues, and we thought, if we focus on his talent in art, maybe that will help him boost his self-esteem,” Pendleton said. “Our board member enrolled him in art classes.”
It worked. Kwizera is about to graduate from high school and recently received a letter of acceptance from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, which he’ll attend this fall.
“We decided we wanted more kids to have that opportunity,” Pendleton said. “Just like with soccer, you don’t have to have perfect grammar or know all the right steps to be successful in art. It’s about your interpretation. And you can find praise in anyone’s art. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. … We love partnering with the Currier and the Art Center. They give these kids the opportunity they wouldn’t have because of financial difficulty.” 
As seen in the May 28, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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