Sometimes the best intervention is inspiration.

That was the thinking that led a local non-profit, Arts Holding Hands and Hearts (AHHAH), to embark on a campaign to raise the literacy, and creative spirit, of at-risk youth in Coatesville.

AHHAH, which combines the healing arts of mindfulness and yoga with the expressive and visual arts, was launched in June 2013 at the Chester County Youth Center (CCYC). Founder Jan Michener and her staff found that 40 percent of the center’s serviced youth where from Coatesville. As such, they made one of their key goals to close the academic gap and break the school-to-prison pipeline in Coatesville.

As part of that effort, AHHAH launched what it calls the “PULL Campaign” (i.e., the creation of “Pop-Up Lending Libraries”). The organization received metal newspaper boxes from the Philadelphia Inquirer, and partnered with the Brandywine VoTech carpentry class to build 15 additional outdoor wooden boxes, each of which would be used to house mini-libraries. Community workshops where then assembled to help de-rust and/or paint them.

copy book shop ahhah

AHHAH founder Jan Michener (left) with the “Cop Book Shop” PULL

That when the youth at the CCYC got involved. The kids came together to design and paint a special PULL that would be placed in front of the Coatesville Police Station. Their creation, the “Cop Book Shop,” offers a variety of books to pique the imagination, and features the inscription: “Books are Free, Reading and Imagination and Learning are Priceless.”

“We facilitated an expressive arts workshop with the youth at CCYC and asked what would have helped them not end up in the judicial system,” says Michener. “Education and reading were the key responses. We believe ‘Books Not Bullets’ is the answer.”

For Coatesville’s 100th anniversary, AHHAH’s goal is to get 100 pop-up lending libraries. In addition to the police station, AHHAH has also helped place PULLs in laundromats, barber shops, diners, pizza shops, soup kitchens, church gardens, the local WIC office, and over 40 indoor locations.

artbox creative montco

ACPPA box that was created as part of a 2014 Creative MontCo ArtBox competition

To learn more about AHHAH, and how you can help support their programs, please click here.

For anyone interested in creating your own pop-up libraries, or creating an “ArtBox” to raise the profile of the arts in your community, please contact us here at Creative MontCo.


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© 2014 Creative Montco | Made with love.
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