More than paint strokes
Urban Cultural Arts provides the community with creative freedom
By Rachel Sankey
When Latosha Greenleaf started paint n’ sip nights with her friends, she said she had no idea that it would turn into something as impactful as Urban Cultural Arts and Event Center.
Greenleaf said she started painting about six years ago with her and her friends. She then opened it up to the entire community, and after continually gaining interest, she decided to start doing it as a business.
“Our main goal and mission is to bring diversity and inclusion to the community in one space, giving everyone the opportunity to come in and be creative in any and all art forms that are available to be artistic creatively,” Greenleaf said. “We’re also trying to help our youth, we try to help our elderly through art.”
Soon after starting up the business, Greenleaf said she noticed her biggest clientele came from schools and those in retirement homes. She said she works with Tank Elementary, Howe Elementary and Doty Elementary on a regular basis. She also collaborates with Angel’s Touch Assisted Living and Next Level Champions, a youth ministry organization.
Art is a great form of therapy to reduce stress, Greenleaf said, and for the elderly, art is known to help with eye coordination and memory.
“Our elderly really enjoy it,” Greenleaf said. “The smiles on their faces and the laughs they have… That’s why I ended up getting into working with kids and the retirement homes – because of the enjoyment they have out of it.”
Though Greenleaf works with both youth and the elderly, she said Urban Cultural Arts and Event Center is open to everyone, and that everyone wants to be a part of it.
The arts and events center offers various forms of artistic expression, from painting, drawing and more. Every Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., Urban Cultural Arts offers open paint for all ages. Greenleaf said the center even has a bathroom with a shower for the younger kids who may make messy masterpieces during a paint session.
Urban Cultural Arts also stands as a place for music, acting, comedy, open mic nights, history sessions and more, said Greenleaf. For example, THom E. Bhoy, Urban Cultural Arts’ community outreach coordinator, creates podcast episodes for 43NORTH, which covers a multitude of topics, from art, music, media, THom E. BHoy’s life and more.
The center is in the process of becoming a 501(c)3. As of right now, Greenleaf said any money Urban Cultural Arts makes off of their concessions, canvas sales and more is put right back into the building to keep it running. Everyone who works at the center is a volunteer, Greenleaf said.
“People want to be involved, even if they’re not getting paid,” Greenleaf said. “They want to be a part of what’s going on.”
Greenleaf said they also have cultural days at the center in order to bring people together and educate different cultures. She said the center recently had a day where they learned about Mexican culture, their traditions and heritage. For Black History Month, Greenleaf said one of the topics of conversation still needing to be had is around mental health in the African American community.
“That’s something that is untouched and very needed in our community,” Greenleaf said. “It’s not that the resources aren’t there, but we have to find a way to communicate with them to let them know that there is a need for it and there is help for it… a lot don’t realize that they have mental health issues going on. And you know, being that we are African Americans, we see that, we have that in our own families. And we were just taught to cover it up or name it something else or sweep it under the rug and just deal with it. But that’s something that needs to be out in the forefront and dealt with.”
As Urban Cultural Arts continues to grow, Greenleaf said she would love to continue to expand in the future. She said the building they are in now is cozy, though she said she would like to see it grow.
“So, a couple years from now, I see us being an arts and cultural events center that people come to to be able to be creative,” Greenleaf said. “They’ll come for music, they’ll come in for art, to purchase art… to give local artists more exposure. We just want to be a community center for the whole entire community… where people can come in, feel comfortable, relax and have a safe space that is inclusive.”
Rachel Sankey is the Arts and Entertainment Reporter of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]