Chapter 1 - Art After
School Fills a Need
Too many children are in crisis. Impoverished children disconnected
from a nurturing home often learn life from the streets. Drugs,
gangs and violence are pervasive forces that steal the innocence
of childhood from our children.
Children need to be children.
They need safe places to dream, create, experiment, build self-esteem
and do things that feed the soul. Schools are asked not only
to teach, but also to act as surrogate parents by carrying out
tasks that were formerly part of a family's domain.
For a few hours a week, at an
after-school art program, children can escape difficult circumstances
to participate in exciting opportunities for expression, opportunities
that also reinforce academic subjects.
This neighborhood art center
model is endorsed by educators who have seen what a tremendous
impact involvement in the arts can have on a child's life. Not
every child is a success story. However, the arts can reach every
child in a positive way.
"We began classes when school
cutbacks had all but abolished art programs and after-school
activities. The Center filled this gap. We had a small space
and limited resources, but we were full of ideas and we had a
lot of friends. We used and abused them all. We were forced to
be innovative. . We were forced to be creative. We became adept
moochers and creative recyclers. As a result, the children interacted
with a number of local artist friends and worked in a wide range
We constructed Halloween masks
and made Christmas ornaments. We decorated tennis shoes donated
by Target. We painted t-shirts---which aided the creative spirit
and provided a fun piece of clothing the children could wear
to school. We drew on walls and sidewalks and made outdoor spaces.
We had art shows that presented our work to the community. We
drew ourselves and in the process revealed ourselves. We learned
from each other. But best of all, we became friends."
The arts-that part of the school
curriculum often considered a frill and the first to go when
there is a dollar crunch-can be a godsend for children who have
limited opportunity for expression and inquiry. Art After School
is not just for the good kids; this concept works with startling
results for the fringe child, the one who does not get involved,
who hates school, the at-risk child. Through participation in
the arts in a positive environment young people blossom, grow,
comprehend and accept the world. They learn to appreciate the
creativity that is distinctly their own. The goal of an afterschool
art program is to unlock the creativity in children, giving them
new ways to learn and teaching them skills needed to interact
and communicate with people. These skills are vital to their
ability to function in the world and to adjust to challenges
and opportunities in life. Art education encourages initiative,
inventiveness and the ability to adapt to constantly changing
situations. Art gives us new eyes and ears to make us all more
aware of and in touch with each other and our surroundings.
|Participation in the
arts provides children opportunities that:
imaginations and the creative spirit
a way to release feelings in a positive way
on the value of creative expression.
a sense of pleasure in their own creativity.
confidence and pride in their creations and themselves.
the unique nature of self expression.
the relationship between art and the environment.
academic principles through the arts.
awareness and understanding of art in cultural heritage.
problem-solving skills and techniques.
a variety of community professionals and artists.
creativity by encouraging each child to trust their instincts
and vision. They aren't judgedjust given positive reinforcement
so they experience the freedom of the creative process. This
encourages children to:
the process and outcome of art experiences.
logically and abstractly.
ideas, thoughts, feelings and needs in various ways.
strategies to cope with the challenges of daily life.
short-and long-term goals.
aware of career opportunities.
|Art After School
can be unique in providing direct creative experiences in the
visual, literary and performing arts in a warm and spontaneous
One day when the children
were off from school, 10-year-old Christopher, who lived next
door to the Center, stopped by to visit several times. Because
of the dangers in the neighborhood, his mother restricted him
to either their home or the Center. Christopher was at an age
targeted by gangs to get new recruits. At the Center, he often
volunteered to make photocopies or stuff envelopes for mailings.
He began attending the after-school art classes when he was six
years old and after four years was familiar with Center operations
and friends with all the staff
On one particular day, Chris
came to the Center several times to borrow a different item:
first a bottle of glue, then paper clips, then a paintbrush.
On his fourth trip, he brought a magnificent model made on a
piece of cardboard about the size of a card table top. He had
taped and glued odd pieces of cardboard together to make a soccer
field, day-care center, basketball court, hotel and golf course
for a dream city. Everything was created from toothpicks, scraps
of paper, bottle caps and other found objects!
When Chris first attended the
after-school art classes, he had not displayed any particular
artistic tendencies. However, his dream city is a confirmation
that encouragement and affirmation release not only the ability
to be creative but the joy that comes from creating something
for personal pleasure and to share with others.
The Arts Open Windows
Many children such as
seven year-old Tony were tentative about their first art experiences.
Children like Tony would use only black or dark colors during
their first few sessions at the Center. Slowly they begin to
feel comfortable using brighter materials. After attending classes
for a few weeks, Tony proudly displayed his latest brightly colored
work. Over time his face also brightened as he smiled more.
Robert Koeper, Vieau Elementary
School principal, frequently brought his seventh grade students
to participate in daytime or after-school special events. When
asked why he included the seventh grade students more often than
the other grades, he commented that after seventh grade
the students are lost to the system. They become
more interested in the temptations of the street than they are
in school. He said that students need to enjoy being in school
and find it worth their time, or they drop out. He welcomed
every chance to reach seventh graders because this was his last
chance to influence them. He hoped these positive
experiences would show them that education can be exciting and
a way to open doors for them in the future.
"This is only place I go
where people are nice to me."
Hands On, Art After School student
After-school art programs offer
students a safe haven from negative influences. Students considered
at risk or misfits often give up on school and drop out to spend
their time on the streets. However, after positive experiences
in the arts, they blossom. They take pride in their accomplishments
and themselves, making it easier for them to choose to stay in
school and take positive rather then negative paths.
When ten-year-old Ulanda first
attended after-school art classes, she could not read, nor could
she start or finish a project without extensive help. Although
quiet, withdrawn and unsure of herself for many reasons (including
the fact that she could not read), Ulanda kept coming to class.
The first project she worked on was coloring sand to make a layered
design in a clear glass bottle. She had great difficulty with
this project. After several months she asked the teacher to make
sand bottles again. This time Ulanda not only made her sand bottle
without help, she taught the other children how to make them!
An after-school art program can
have an impact whether finances are meager or abundant, surroundings
are opulent or rough, or the setting is rural or urban. The most
important aspect is to develop a caring relationship with a child
while providing the tools for expression in a carefree environment.
Art After School
builds community by encouraging interaction among educators,
artists, social service groups, businesses and neighbors. The
arts celebrate every child's individuality as well as the cultural
diversity and richness of a neighborhood. Few things are as pleasing
to a community as seeing their children happily walking down
the street carrying their latest artistic creations.
Educators, community groups,
churches, artist groups and employers as well as museums, art
centers, colleges and universities can use this concept to reach
out to children in a variety of settings. The possibilities are
endless and the rewards great--not only for the children but
for the entire community because through these collaborations,
formal and informal networking occurs that brings together people
and groups that would otherwise not interact.
Principal Koeper saw what a difference
the after-school art program had on his students, especially
at-risk children. After seeing the positive reactions of children
and artists at the Center, he hired local artists as teacher
aides. At-risk children worked with the artists who, through
simple art projects, helped the children reinforce academics.