to the mountaintop

Pamela Ward, far left, helps art project participants as Theo Reynolds, of Atlantic City, and her 3-year-old twin sons Robert and George, paint a piece of wood Sunday at the Atlantic City Free Public Library.

Ben Fogletto

About 20 people at the Atlantic City Free Public Library spent Sunday afternoon collaborating on a mixed media sculpture inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s last speech.

King, who would have turned 84 last week, delivered “I Have Been to the Mountaintop” on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated — at the Mason Temple Church of God in Memphis, Tenn., where he and other civil-rights workers had traveled to support striking sanitation workers.

The workshop was part of the library’s Funday Sunday series. Every Sunday afternoon, the library offers interactive educational programming at no cost to as many as 30 participants, Youth Services Librarian Maureen Moffit said.

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Sometimes participants make a craft. Other times, they might talk with an author at a question-and-answer session. In April, Moffit schedules the Wetlands Institute for events focused on Earth Day. Often, participants make a craft.

No matter what the event, Moffit said the audience is engaged and learns something — at least that is the goal.

“It’s almost always interactive,” she said. “We used to show films, but it was stagnant, so then I came up with the idea of doing a craft, and people really liked it. It’s something fun, and it’s a make-and-take. It’s something you can take home with you. This one will stay here, though.”

Now display on the second floor of the library, the sculpture was created with pieces of Atlantic City houses damaged during Hurricane Sandy that were painted Sunday by program participants based on a quote of their choice from the address.

Pamela Ward, who runs educational arts programs through her Arts Forward organization, led Sunday’s program, which she started by teaching the group of 6- to 12-year-olds and their parents about the speech’s significance.

Last year’s MLK-inspired event also involved collaborative art — a mixed media collage inspired by King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The posterboard still hangs on the wall on the library’s second floor, which caters to children and teenagers.

“A lot of people tend to focus on MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and we hear it a great deal, especially on his day. But he has many, many, many great addresses. This happens to be my favorite,” Ward said.

The mountaintop speech, she said, contains many the civil-rights movement’s best quotes.

Christopher Gonzalez, 7, of Absecon, took a practical approach Sunday to picking which quote would be the focal point of his piece of the sculpture.

“It’s small, so it fits the best,” said Gonzalez, who said he likes to draw superheroes and comic characters in his spare time.

He and his mother, Aimee, have come to the library every Sunday since they moved with Gonzalez’s husband and parents from Long Island a few months ago.

“It’s educational, and he meets a lot of friends, so that’s fun,” Aimee Gonzalez said. “And he likes doing it — he’s very artistic.”

Gonzalez said she also likes being retaught of history, science and other things she learned previously, but might have all but forgotten.

“It’s a good reminder,” she said. “And he likes learning this stuff, so it’s good to share it with him.”

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