Back 2 School with GJP

By Kenneth Westberry ’13

My two “C’s” at Davidson in Basic Studio Art and Basic Acting led me to the realization that I’m not that great at art.  In the first, I was “too explorative” and not willing to pay mind to structure.  In the latter I wasn’t explorative enough.

Back 2 School with GJP

But I put my skills to the test again this past summer at Georgia Justice Project’s 7th Annual Back-2-School Festival.  This was my first weekend after my first weeks worth of work at my new job.  While I had been in Atlanta for nearly two and a half weeks, I was very

excited for the opportunity to meet the children of some of our many current and former clients.  The only word that I can begin to formulate to describe the week before the event is…. “real.”  The packing, unpacking, loading, lifting, and pushing boxes in and out of trucks and buildings was “real.”  However, there is no doubt that in my first week I could truly see this whole family element that had been described to me before arriving.  The staff is a family.



It was 7:30 AM  Saturday and I realized that I only had about 30 minutes to pick up one of the summer interns, James, and head to the event.   On the way out of 100 Midtown (my first apartment in Atlanta) I backed into a random pole that magically appeared in the tight parking garage.  I kept it moving.  When we arrived at the gymnasium I was greeted by Sanchez, a GJP Social Worker, who yelled from the back of the truck, “Lets Go! Lets Go!”  James and I jogged from the parking lot and jumped into the back of the truck.  We began to unload hundreds of book bags into the hands of many eager volunteers.

The inside of the event was very well planned out by many on the staff.  I decided to put my art education to the test when I saw that Mazie (a BM&E summer intern from this past summer) was the only person manning the face painting station and there were nearly 5 kids waiting for their turn. Back 2 School with GJP

My first face-painting client was four year-old Suzie.  Her father is currently incarcerated.  She wanted to be a fairy-tale princess.  So I went to work.  She sat there, eyes closed, daydreaming to herself about how she would look once I was complete.   I used blue paint for her eyelids and pink for blush.   I moved in closer to ensure that I got the red lipstick just right…until her friend ran up and tapped her on the shoulder.  Her friend had obviously been painted as a clown.

“Can I be a clown now?!” she exclaimed.

I was uprooted from my artistic moment.  “I’m sorry?”  I said confused, and somewhat hurt, “I thought you wanted to be a fairytale princess?”

“I don’t want to be a fairytale princess anymore!

“Yes mam!!” I responded smiling and began to paint her nose red and her forehead blue.  When I was finished she ran off screaming and laughing with her friend into the bouncy castle.

My second piece didn’t receive such a reaction.  Seven-year-old Todd decided he wanted a fire-breathing dragon on his face.  I was enthused to take on this challenge.  I handed him my iPhone and suggested that he find a picture on Google images of the dragon that he wanted me to paint on his face.  He chose the Absolute. Most. Complicated. Dragon. I. Have. EVER seen. Back 2 School with GJP

I embraced the challenge.  However, I warned him before I began that it may not come out exactly as he expected, especially considering that he wanted the dragon to breath blue flames. After spending nearly 20 minutes on his face, I presented him with the mirror…

Back 2 School with GJP

“You said I can wash it off in the end if I don’t like it, right?”

At that moment, I decided that my professors were right and that my skills would be best utilized manning the basketball game.

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