Just when it seems like the whole world has gone to hell, a high school student gives Tom a shot of hope

The weather sucks, our City Council sucks, the majority of our state Legislature should be taking remedial civics classes to learn that legislators should be doing things for people rather than to people, and every member of Congress should be in jail for stealing their salaries and not doing any work to earn them.

It all sucks, but then, every now and then, you come across something that makes you smile and think, "Y'know, Tucson is a pretty cool place to be."

Such was the case last week when I stopped by Kiva Goodman's Cube Colony Art Camp. I'm still smiling.

First off, Kiva Goodman is a 16-year-old junior-to-be at Ironwood Ridge High School on the northwest side of town and yes, her name really is Kiva. Her mom had read a book about the Pueblo Indians when she was teenager and decided that if she ever had a daughter, she would name that child Kiva. There's no real explanation as to why Kiva's brother is named Nate.

Kiva started at Immaculate Heart High School, but IH had only one art class and she killed that her freshman year. She wanted much more, so she transferred to Ironwood Ridge, knowing that by doing so, her fledgling athletic career would come to a screeching halt. ("The athletes at Ironwood Ridge are 24/7/365," she says with a sigh.) But the art opportunities are boundless at the bigger public school.

She wanted to take 3-D art, but didn't have the prerequisites, so "I bugged them and bugged them and bugged them until they let me in."

However, art isn't simply about creating; it's also about sharing. Which is why, after having just completed her freshman year of high school, she started her own art camp. It was a pretty gutsy move, especially since there was no guarantee that anybody would show up for it. (When I was a kid, if somebody had said "art camp," my friends and I would have gone screaming into the street, telling our moms that we preferred to play by the radioactive waste dump, which was right next to the prison and the factory where they make kimchi and menudo.)

But not only did she get enough kids, she also got an overflow of applicants. There were some inner-city kids who found out about it through their schools; artsy kids who heard of it from a friend of a friend; and even some kids who were home-schooled (which readers of this column know to be a subtle form of child abuse).

This year, she had to turn people away, which sorta broke her heart. "I felt terrible, but we just didn't have enough space for everybody who wanted to attend."

The camp is held at the Cube Colony, a building on the corner of Stone and University. Like a lot of places in that part of town, it's been through some changes over the years. It's housed a gallery and a drug rehab place. Nowadays, the southern section is subdivided into little cubicles for individual artists, while the other part (where the camp is held) has larger workspaces, fenced off and rented out to silk screeners, T-shirt designers and the like.

Kiva got local artists to come in and help. One day, Rose Mayer taught the kids how to make sock puppets and then led an improv session in the building's basement. Another day, Mary Griffin led a class in still life and pastels and even taught the kids about Claes Oldenberg. Sue McIntire taught the kids how to make leather masks. When I was there on Friday, Kiva was teaching the kids how to make color wheels.

The camp runs from midmorning into the afternoon, so the kids get lunch as well. "It was so cool," Kiva says. "We thought it would be hard to get donations, but the first five people we asked all said, 'Yeah, sure, we'd be glad to help.'"

One day, Walmart sent over a couple of giant sandwiches, then McDonald's provided chicken Caesar salads. Taco Bell sent soft tacos, the Food Conspiracy provided box lunches and eegee's sent a party pack with a giant sandwich.

"When I started this, I wanted everything to be free," Kiva explains. "I didn't want the kids or their parents to have to pay for anything. I'm so happy with the support from the community."

Working with high school kids, as I do, I love telling those who have just completed their sophomore years that they are halfway through high school. They tend to hear that phrase in James Earl Jones' voice and the words hit them like giant boulders dropped from a great height and landing squarely upon their heads and necks. Kiva was no different, but she eventually regained her composure.

She says that she plans on running the camp at least two more years, but doesn't know for sure what she'll do after she goes off to college. She knows that she wants next year's camp to be bigger, with more kids and more activities. You have 51 weeks' advance notice if you want to jump in and help.

(All you hate-mail writers can just take the week off. But stay ready. Next week, I'll be writing about a Tea Party-sponsored charter school for gun owners who smoke marijuana.)

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