Children encouraged to discover their creativity at mall event
By Jordan Cohen
Andi Chiodo loved all the personal attention as any 5-year-old would. She sat shyly smiling in the center concourse of Eastwood Mall as cosmetic artist Kerrigan Skruck of Hubbard drew a butterfly on her face, various designs on her arms and even a purple streak in her hair.
Andi, of Meadville, Pa., is probably too young to realize it, but this was her first introduction to creativity and self-discovery, which was the point of the Identity Mall Tour on Saturday afternoon.
A series of displays and activities encouraged children to “explore your style,” “discover your creativity” and “be the best you can be” through drawing, face painting and the always-popular photo booth.
“It’s fun,” said Andi after being prompted by Kathy Donaldson of Sharon, Pa., her grandmother.
Identity also has a serious side, as evidenced in one display where young people were asked to sign a pledge against bullying and another offering fingerprinting as a permanent record.
Some of the children did not appreciate the fingerprinting process. Amelia Criado, 2, of Boardman shook her head negatively when asked if she liked it and her twin sister, Aubrey, cried, but their grandmother, Gretchen Griffin, Boardman, was grateful.
“It establishes their identity in case something happens, so I’m glad we could do this,” she said.
The concept of discovering one’s identity can be ageless. At the other end of the concourse, author and
educator Stedman Graham signed copies of his latest book “Identity: Your Passport to Success,” while talking about his life experiences. Graham, who is in a long-running relationship with TV icon Oprah Winfrey (he dedicated the book to her), said he does not want to be identified by their relationship, his African-American race, or job title.
“I had to find out who I was by looking to myself,” Graham said. “You [can’t] let anyone label you.”
Graham said he has been delivering a similar message to teens for more than 12 years. “They have to take a passion, skills and talent, develop them … and make it relevant to their mission in life.”
The author said establishing identity should begin at an early age, including the very young who were enjoying the afternoon displays without understanding the identity subtext.
“Start with the young people in schools,” Graham said. “Focus on teaching people who they are.”