Cathren Housley, an award-winning artist and illustrator and a graduate of RISD's Children's Book Illustration Program, has been been teaching workshops at PCL since 2013. Her current workshop series, Maker's Box Recycled, encourages youth to utilize various recycled items to create fun works of art.
Previous workshop series, all supported by RISCA, have included themes such as designing board games, dealing with bullying and picture book making. Children attending Cathren's popular workshops at PCL have also contributed artwork and ideas to her animated short film, The Land Of The SkyFighter.
Cathren's approach to teaching at the library has developed over time. "In the first years, I tried to structure the classes so that they progressed in an orderly manner but as time went on, I realized that the most important thing I could do was to show interest in and give attention to what each child seemed to have a real feel for," she explained. "I encouraged them to take it as far as it would go. I would ask questions and see possibilities- 'wow, I like what you’re doing in this part, what if you…' and give them a gentle push down the path of discovery. I consider it a successful class if every person is working on a different project."
Apart from providing engaging and entertaining afterschool activities, Cathren's work provides creative opportunities that may otherwise be lacking in children's lives. "Most of these kids come from homes where there are no art supplies, and parents don’t have time to spend with them to encourage play and exploration," Cathren emphasized. "My workshops are a place where they can play and make a mess - and it’s OK. I remember reading a research paper that said that most career criminals were play deprived as kids. I wish every parent could read it. Play, and creativity, is not only fun - it’s important. I thank RISCA for understanding how important it is and making all of these workshops possible."