Cordial Eye in Hyannis offers photography, visual arts, fashion design

A few weeks ago, if you had been standing outside the Hyannis Public Library, you would have seen two big yellow school buses pull up and disgorge a mob of kids from Barnstable High School. Big mats covered with art supplies were spread out along the length of the three huge art panels that adorn the library’s exterior. All these kids were here to put up some new art.

What I was seeing was the latest iteration of a long-standing relationship between the Hyannis library, young artists and an organization located just down the street called The Cordial Eye.

“What’s any of this got to do with a library?” one might ask. Ah, well. We live in modern times. The musty old hush-hush libraries from the days of yore have given way to the concept of libraries serving multiple purposes as community centers.

At the Hyannis library, “public” is their middle name.  Why, after all, is the library trying so hard to raise money for renovation? One, the existing building simply needs it. But way beyond that, the Hyannis Public Library wants to realize its full potential by building new spaces for public forums, youth programs and for the creation of new media… all in addition to what we remember libraries doing traditionally. There’s even a fridge just inside the main entrance stuffed with portable packages of food for anyone who might need it.

If Hyannis is planning to renew Main Street, the renovated library will serve as its centerpiece. So what about the community art wall? What’s on the wall varies all the time — and that’s the whole point. After writing a piece a while back about how our kids are in trouble, I promised to come back to you with good news, with examples of how local initiatives can energize our kids and thus make them happier and more productive. Welcome to the Hyannis Public Library’s art wall.

While I was there, I found myself talking to Mary George and Anastaci Pacella, co-directors of The Cordial Eye.  The Cordial Eye’s mission is to provide access to the means of producing art — especially to marginalized populations whose resources may be limited. The Cordial Eye connects adult artists with artistic kids; it provides adult supervision for projects like the Hyannis Community Art Wall and, with financial support from the MCC’s STARS Residency Program, provides funding for projects like the day at the Wall, or to bring artists into K-12 schools for temporary residencies. Although it might seem to focus particularly on school-aged kids, artistic adults find places there as well.

If people are interested in fashion design, they’ll find four sewing machines at The Cordial Eye.

This spring, they’ll be offering a photography boot camp for kids 15 and up (for free). People 18 and older get a visual storytelling class that gives participants the opportunity to process and tell their own stories. Also for 18 and up, there is a drawing class, Seeing Figures… a program for kids 9 a.m. to noon in making art from paper to create several versatile pieces of art. 

There are programs planned for spring that involve really little kids from newborns to 4… art journaling for kids 9 to 12 and bucket-drumming for kids 5 to 8. All of these are free.  And you know what that means. It means they could use your financial support. If what you’re reading intrigues you, email

There is a program in Boston called Artists for Humanity that employs over 300 kids and experienced artists — and it’s a model for The Cordial Eye. Their local program, Grow Into Art, provides year-round training, mentorship, and employment opportunities for teen artists, providing a wide range of creative services at a subsidized rate to consumers. Qualified kids with adult mentors can paint murals for local businesses and public spaces at 25% of the market rate.

I sat in their brightly-lit facility on Main Street talking with Anastasi and Mary about their philosophy and ambitions for the place. Their goal is not just inclusion but community for people of all backgrounds and conditions.  Mary explained the three C’s to me: creativity, community, and care.  “Are we benefiting our community?” She asked. Every organization should be asking itself the same question.  “Belonging,” she said, “is a survival necessity.”

Years ago, at a Parliament of the World’s Religions, an African professor took issue with the famous western maxim, “I think, therefore I am.”  “Oh no,” he said, “I belong, therefore I am.”  Identity derives from our connectedness to the matrix of life, to family, friends and community. The more creative places we offer, the more places there are for our young people to find a resting place for their souls. There is no substitute for a safe place where, when you walk in the door, you know people will be glad to see you. We all need that.

Lawrence Brown is a columnist for the Cape Cod Times. Email him at

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