I never go to the mall to see art. Never. So I was surprise to come across bronze sculptures and even more shocked when reading articles about the artist.
At the Oak Court mall in Memphis, Tennessee, there are seven bronze sculptures by Prince Monyo. They are very intricate and wonderfully made by someone who had no formal art training!
I really enjoyed the sculptures. They all speak to the mind of a juvenile. They seem to suggest pure fun and innocence.
Prince Monyo, (an actual ‘Prince’ according to Palm Beach Daily News) apparently, is the last in the line of descendants of Romanian Voevods Kings who grew up in a castle on the outskirts of Bucharest, Romania (would you fancy that?! A CASTLE).
After World War Two ended and the communists ruled Romania, Prince Monyo became a political revolutionary. While those around him were killed, he escaped but was later captured as a political prisoner and held in solitary confinement for 71/2 years. In prison his formal studying in mechanical engineering did not comfort him as did clay. He began to sculpture clay figures while in prison as a way to enter different worlds.
During the 1960’s, he came to the United States as a political refugee and eventually ended up in Canada where he was taught by a friend work with bronze. Then, in 1980, he opened one of the largest bronze foundries in Florida.
Prince Monyo’s bronze sculptures are displayed at numerous public facilities and buildings around the world and have been featured in magazines including International Art Guild and Architectural Digest.
Ardas, who is home schooled, takes a PE class with other home schoolers.
As soon as I got to Memphis, I heard stories about Ardas’ PE class. Stories about the students and about his coach, stories about the little baby who is cute as a button but extremely shy, and stories about the mother named Comfort who greets all the children with a high five.
I am glad I found out about this class because it gives Ardas the chance to interact with other children, his mother told me while driving, and, she continue, he isn’t around children at home and very few attend church. So, he is really ecstatic when he has class.
That night when I put together an itinerary of things to do in Memphis, I included, spend a school day with Ardas. I wanted to see what it was like for children to be home schooled. It sounded like a lot of work for a parent. But, it also sounded like a sacrifice I wouldn’t mind making (if I had children).
I spent the entire school day with Ardas on Tuesday. I got to his house before he was up. While the school bus was outside making it’s rounds, Ardas was still sleeping. I spoke with his mom for a while and noticed that Ardas got up alone. He had a light breakfast and while his mother and I spoke, he got ready. There was no fussing about not wanting to get out of the bed or getting dress. He dressed and fed himself. He also did his lessons alone and seemed interested in the content. He was laughing out loud while reading Freddy the Detective, a book well above his reading level. He did extra lessons on the computer (which I found out was catered to them from sites like k12.com , connections academy and timberdoole.com ) and even had an opportunity to play before he left for gym.
The only question I remember his mother asking him was if he prayed.
When we got to the gym, he literally ran out of the car into class. He was huffing and puffing when he caught up with the other students. The parents sat on the side while their children was taught by their coach, who is also a parent of homeschoolers.
Even though they all were different in age, they all were interacting very well. I must stop here and say that to have kids willing play with children who aren’t in their age bracket isn’t always easy. Especially, when dealing with the middle schoolers. Perhaps one would say that their parents being in the room made the difference, but I don’t think so. The setting was extremely welcoming. I have never saw/ felt this type of atmosphere in the schools I’ve worked at in New York. No matter how many anti bullying workshops teachers go to and assemblies children attend there is still a sort of ‘fear of being openly kind to others’ in the air. However, not here. I could tell everyone was genuine.
After the class, there was another small group session where the children sat around and spoke about healthy eating. The room was small, so parents were forced to speak to one another. I met the coach, Omar Ruvalcaba and his lovely wife, Saleama. Very sweet and serious people. People who you would trust your children around. If their program was in New York, I would suggest it to every parent I work with. And for a cherry on the top, I also met the shy baby, who that day surprised Ardas by initiating play.
To learn more about their program visit their website at https://gamemphis.org/.