Deidre Clark, Kuumba’s Founder attends Straight A’s Training


From June 3rd– 7th Deidre Clark, Kuumba Community Art’s Founder attended the The Straight A’s Institute  with teaching artist Karen Erikson. During the four-day training, which was held at the Birmingham Museum of Art, participants learned  to create arts based curricula that is consistent with Birmingham City’s School Standards.

The teaching artist covered a number of ways to integrate arts into almost any lesson plan, which would lead to better student engagement, stronger arts instruction and higher academic achievement.

Straight A’s (Arts Advance Academic Achievement) is a federally funded program that was created to integrate arts into elementary and middle school curricula.  This is the first time a federally funded program such as this has been implemented in Alabama.

“The Straight A’s training was particularly helpful because of how it fits into Kuumba’s goals of using art as a tool to foster learning and self-esteem in elementary and middle school children,” said Deidre Clark.

Straight A’s is a joint partnership between the Kennedy Center, Birmingham City School District, and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham.

For more information on Straight A’s please visit:

Kuumba’s First Photo Exhibition

On May 30, 2013, the students of the Kuumba Arts  held their first photography exhibit at the Ensley Recreation Center in Ensley, Alabama.  The exhibit drew a crowd of close to 75 people which included the students’ families, teachers and other community members. This event was very exciting not only for the Kuumba staff, but also for the students. The event was such a success that two of the student artists were interviewed by the Birmingham Times Newspaper.  The student artists, all young Black boys ranging in ages from 8-12 years old took photographs of places in their communities with a Canon Powershot A2300, they were given very little direction and the results were breath taking.

By encouraging the students to see places and objects that are a part of their daily lives in new, creative ways we hope to inspire them to also see their lives and the lives of others with a new lens.  Below are some of the photographs from the exhibition.

Click  Birmingham Times 6.13.2013 to read the news article from the Birmingham Times.

week 4 (2 of 9) week 4 (8 of 10) Slide (1 of 1) week 4 (3 of 10)week 4 (4 of 10) week 4 (7 of 9) Baseball and Bridges (7 of 10) Converse (1 of 1)

Week One: Eyes Wide Open

“Excuse me, what is this class for?” His 5’’4’ frame stood before me covered in a black pullover and the classic blue uniform pants. I looked up from the table and explained it was a photography class and that I even had cameras for him to use.  “Thank you”. He went over to the table and took a seat. I think the promise to throw them a big party once class was over and invite lots of people to come and check out their work is what really drew him in.  Three other boys came after him and one little girl. We spent the spent the next hour discussing the proper way to handle a camera, point of view and composition. Half our time was spent outside taking pictures.  I’m gonna stop talking and let you all see where my photography students are starting 🙂  My posts for the next few weeks will be all about Lamontez, Markevius, Carmen, Ron and Myron. They are the brave souls that dare to learn something different and I am so honored to be learning with them!


Why Kuumba?

A few years ago I became obsessed with the idea and principle of Kuumba, a community art center in Ensley. You may ask why Ensley and why art? At its inception all I could tell you was that I wanted it to be in Ensley because that is where I was born and raised. My mom gave birth to me at Holy Family Hospital now a dilapidated building in Ensley. Ensley loved and nurtured me. It didn’t have much to offer but it was and still is my home. I’m a photographer so, it only makes sense that I’d be drawn to the arts and would desire to share that with my community.

However, I knew it would take more than sentiment and personal enjoyment to get a community art center going. So, I started doing some research. I discovered . They have done so much research to help make a case for the arts. This is where my sentiment and personal enjoyment turned into some more. Something that would sustain me through the difficulty of launching a business, a non-profit for that matter J I learned that arts participation “enabled students to develop a sense of identity and self-direction as well as attitudes of empathy, tolerance and cooperation. . .Through arts experiences young people are able to build powerful communities in which they can thrive”.  Study after study proves that like team sports, participation in the arts have benefits that go beyond artistic technique and skill.

Ensley is a predominantly black neighborhood. Everyday our young black boys and girls are inundated with images that tell them who they are, who they should be, and who they can’t be.  They must learn to define themselves for themselves if they are to thrive in today’s world. I believe in the power of community. I know what when children are supported, when all the people in a community are supported they can and will come together to achieve a common goal. Kuumba helps encourage community by having family art night. This is a time when the community can come together to support one another and create new works of art. We encourage mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and every interested person in the community to join us for family art night. As members of the same community we are family!

The school systems have very little to offer to students that are not athletically inclined. We have too many youth with idle hands and too much time.  I’m tired of hearing and reading about what’s wrong in Ensley. I’m ready to take action, give my hands, my feet, my heart, my time and my money to the struggle. Kuumba exists to give our youth something to say yes to! The benefits are innumerable.

Are you ready to lend your hands to the struggle? If so please contact us!

**source material below


What is Kuumba?

Kuumba is a community art center that will soon be located in downtown Ensley. We are a hub of learning in the visual and performing arts; providing classes and work-shops for the young and the young at heart.

No, but really, what is Kuumba? Kuumba (meaning creativity in Swahili) is a principle of Kwanzaa that says: “To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.” and this principle is the heart of Kuumba Community Art. We exist to serve our children, their families—these are the people that make up our community. More than teaching them creative expression we seek to help them gain a sense of their own power. To help them understand and be confident in themselves as agents of change, even their own change.

I read a quote once that said, “You can’t keep telling kids to say ‘no’ to this and ‘no’ to that without giving them something to say yes to.” Kuumba is that something they can say “yes” to. We will give them a chance to say yes to developing critical thinking skills, a chance to say yes to being creative and developing creative thinking skills. We will give them a chance to find value in themselves and the work of their hands, a chance to walk with their heads held high and be proud of themselves. They will learn to appreciate and value the ideas and creations of others. They will learn that they are to love themselves and others and not be ashamed of where they come from as it does not determine where or how far they go! We must invest in our children to make sure they are well prepared to compete in a society that has little regard for their lives. Kuumba is prepared. Will you help?