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Art at the Center offers an opportunity for fun and education

September 15, 2018 GMT

Jewelry making, face painting and coloring were among the activities offered during the program for Art at the Center: Defeat Hate on Friday at the Center for African American History, Art and Culture in Aiken.

The children and teenagers in attendance also could decorate plastic cups and make paper fortune-tellers.

“We want them to be able to let loose and have some fun while learning some things about African-American history,” said Dr. Melencia Johnson, a member of the center’s board of directors and a sociology professor at USC Aiken.

Johnson also is the first vice president of the Aiken County Branch of the NAACP, which will be observing its 100th anniversary at the center Sunday.

During Saturday’s Celebration of Aiken’s African-American Excellence at the center, two community residents will be honored.

The series of events is “a way to say, hey, we’re here,” Johnson told the Aiken Standard earlier this month. “We don’t have exhibits yet, but we’re here. We’re open.”

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During Art at the Center, Robert Morris was sitting at the NAACP’s table and coloring a picture of Thurgood Marshall, who was the U.S. Supreme Court’s first African-American justice.

“I actually saw a movie about him and it showed just how influential and impactful he was during his time with the Supreme Court. I also learned about him at school,” said Morris, who is the president of the local branch of the NAACP’s Youth Council and a senior at Aiken High.

The fortune-tellers being created at Delta Sigma Theta’s table had information about important African-Americans in them instead of messages about the future.

Lorie Bush brought her three children – Mya, Tyler and Trey Johnson – to Art at the Center.

Mya, 7, made a necklace out of yarn, safety pins and brightly-colored beads. Tyler, 6, and Trey, 9, used marker pens to trace pictures of well-known African-Americans and other images that were attached to the inside of plastic cups.

“I have never been inside the center before,” Bush said. “It is gorgeous. Before we leave, I want to take a peek upstairs. I think the possibilities for what can be done for the community at the center are unlimited.”

Bush’s father, the Rev. Paul Bush, is the leader of the center’s board, and he believed Art at the Center’s mix of fun, education and a variety of hands-on experiences was a good way introduce local youngsters to the facility.

“Young people today are more visual, and if we’re going to hold their attention, we have to get them engaged,” the elder Bush said.

The center is at 120 York St. N.E. The building that is its home was constructed in the late 1800s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A number of educational institutions have been based there over the years.