Professional artist Jerry Allen, of Brainerd, helps turn young pupils of all abilities into imaginative artists in the art room at Hixson Community Center, where sculptures, collages, paintings and more are hand-created daily.
The center is run by Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Center inside the former Hixson Middle School building on School Street.
Using salvaged materials like recycled newspapers, students may sculpt elephants or dolphins. Using recycled water bottles, flowers are cut into art pieces too.
"I tell people to bring their kids and make something together as a family," said Allen, adding that the classes are free. "For Chattanooga Parks and Recreation to pay for the classes, it's a really good deal for families."
He said he would like to attract more people to the classes, which include Painting with Peers, Therapeutic Art, Mixed Media Art, Introduction to Oil Painting and Beginner's Drawing and Tiny Tyke Craft Class.
The Therapeutic Art class enhances and maintains an individual's quality of life by reducing depression, establishing friendship with peers, increasing self-esteem, improving memory and fine motor skills, reducing disruptive behavior, improving family relationships and enhancing self-efficiency.
"A lot of people that come in, we go step by step in how to make art and they like what they make," said Allen. "I'm here to help them create."
His son Stefan Allen, who is autistic, painted red flowers using stencils recently in the therapeutic art class with his dad's help. Stefan's friend in class, Joseph Canale of Soddy-Daisy, also painted flowers using stencils with assistance from Allen.
"Joseph needs outlets to do things and the art class is very therapeutic for him," said Joseph's house manager Royce Westley, of Support Solutions. "We try to come here twice a week so that he can paint or draw."
Stefan and Joseph smile as they talk together in class while creating art on paper. Students listen to jazz music while they paint.
"If you're stressed out then come in and get your mind off things with art," said Allen. "We plan to start taking art trips to local museums downtown. I would like to host art shows for the students too."