The Da Vinci Club
The daVinci Club is made up of North End boys and girls, ages 9 to 16 who participate in innovative projects that require ingenuity, individual and group leadership, and skill building. Thus far, the daVinci's have:
1) 2002: built a house (Dream House Project) using the same process, start to finish, as would be used in a commercial construction project;
2) 2003 and 2004: written, directed, produced, and performed in two 30-minute video documentary (Inside the North End: A Community Profile and The North End: Then and Now); and
3) 2005: daVinci's Amazing Rowing Machine, a 30-foot catamaran designed and built by the club and a competitor in the CT River Raft Race and winner of the mayor's trophy in the 2005 Memorial Day Parade; and
4) 2005: sculpture project; a model of the North End landfill and watershed made out of completely recycled objects and depicting a goal of environmental reclamation.
1. The Dream House Project was the subject of an article (click here) appearing in the New York Times. The videogaphy projects have received extensive exposure at municipal, educational, and public events including the Redevelopment Agency. The boat-building project received extensive community collaboration and attention, and participation. The Junior da Vinci's sculpture project won the "best use of recycled content" award at a community competition in November of 2005. To enquire about membership in The da Vinci Club, please call the NEAT office at 860-346-4845. This club is restricted to residents of the North End.
The Dream House Project took place in the summer of 2002. Nine North End children built a small-scale house from start to finish using the same process as is used to build a full-scale home. The builders, along with the project leader, Therese Desjardin, met with architects to draw up blueprints, a builder to cut the wood, a mason to lay the brick foundation, and a roofer to lay the shingles. The house sports two windows, a door, and a drop down panel to stick your face through to become part of the Mona Lisa painting on the side of the house. The Dream House served as a playhouse in the Ferry Street Community Garden and is used to sell pickles, plants, and the da Vinci DVD's at NEAT's fundraising events. The Dream House was funded by the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council.
Click here to read all about the project on the New York Times' website.
2. Videography - Inside the North End: A Community Profile
In 2003 and 2004, NEATs da Vinci Club produced two video documentaries about the North End. They were titled Inside the North End: A Community Profile and The North End: Then and Now. The members worked with videographer Dan Nocera to write storyboards, conduct interviews, and edit the footage. In the end, they produced two 30 minute documentaries illustrating both contemporary life in the North End, and giving a glimpse into the deep history of the neighborhood.
Click here to see a sample clip of Inside the North End: A Community Profile
3. Boat Building Project
Like all da Vinci Club projects, a process-based approach took club members through the boat-building project from start to finish. In a city-donated workshop in the North End, the club consulted with boating experts, drew up plans, and constructed the boat from Styrofoam and fiberglass.
The first version of the boat (2005) was a 28 foot catamaran-style vessel, with one main hulls with an outrigger canoe (each seats 12 rowers) and a deck in between. In July, 2005, The da Vinci Club members raced the boat in the Connecticut River Raft Race and won second place in their category, finishing the 4.1 mile race in just under two hours. The boat also won the Mayor's Trophy in Middletown's 2005 Memorial Day Parade. You can read all about their race in the Summer 2005, Fall 2005, and Fall 2006 NEAT News.
The final version of the boat was also a 28 foot catamaran with the canoe outrigger replaced by a second handmade hull and no deck. The final boat seated 24 rowers. In the 2006 raft race, the daVinci Club's boat, The Amazing Rowing Machine, took first place in its division. This project was funded by the Middlesex County Community Foundation, the Middletown Area Substance Abuse Prevention Council and the Middletown Rotary Club. Boat builder and environmental activist George Frick directed the project and served as the crew's captain in the CT River Raft Race.