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Art After School arts integration for improving early learning

About the book

Art After-School: A successful way to reach youth in your neighborhood
, was written as a guide, training, and reference book on after-school programming for children and teenagers. This book is based on years of experience seeing the positive impact an after-school program can have on young people, particularly in high crime areas. The primary focus of Art After School is to affirm how after-school art programming can offer a new dimension to intervention and prevention for at-risk youth, especially when presented during those hours when young people commit or are victims of crime.

Second, after-school art programs go beyond their walls to build partnerships with schools (elementary through college level), public and private agencies, and businesses to form a network of support and growth that can strengthen the entire community. Through a network of partnerships, new paradigms develop to stabilize and enrich communities.

Why include the arts in after-school programming?
Art After School
focuses on using the arts and professional artists to broaden the worlds of young people, build their self-esteem, ignite creativity, develop life skills, reinforce academics and offer alternatives to inactivity. Art is easily combined with sports, homework help and other after-school activities in a variety of settings to reach more at-risk youth by providing them additional alternatives to the dangers and enticements of the streets.

Art After School
is a resource to help you structure a program and keep it running. It was written as a user-friendly resource to help after-school program staff easily understand organization concepts and finance fundamentals, including strategies, and examples on how to implement them. Many studies validate the need for after-school programming and the benefits of participation in the arts for young people. Art After School can help after-school programs begin and flourish in neighborhoods anywhere. The concept is adaptable to stand-alone centers and established programs.

Art After School Authors
Jane Brite and Marlene Jaglinski have over 20 years of experience working with children and young adults in professional and volunteer positions. As Director of Walker’s Point Center of the Arts in 1987, Brite initiated Hands On a free after-school and summer art program for the primarily low-income, under-served and at-risk children and teenagers in the Walker’s Point neighborhood of Milwaukee. Hands On classes were held several days per week after-school and for six weeks during the summer months. Brite’s 30 years of experience in the arts in Milwaukee and other cities allowed her access to professional national and local artists to work with students at the art center and in collaboration with area businesses and schools. Hands On grew to serve as many as 1,500 children and young adults annually through arts programming.

Marlene Jaglinski was Administrator at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts for several years. She brought corporate experience from Continental Can Company and VISTA experience as a volunteer in community economic and educational development. At the Center she prepared budgets, grant proposals, publicity, and schedules. She supervised staffing and other administrative functions. She has successfully written grants for a variety of civic and art groups to local, state and national government units and corporate and individual donors. Marlene was a leader with Girl and Boy Scout Troops and has worked with church youth programs. Through experience with business and civic organizations, she brings an understanding of their needs and goals and shows how to blend them into partnerships for young people.

The authors have forged partnerships with area colleges and universities to recruit college student interns to work with children and teenagers to give them an opportunity to learn from young adults.

Although the majority of the children served were ages 6-12, Brite and Jaglinski administered projects that targeted 12-18 year olds, many of whom were gang members. These teenagers participated in mural painting, photography, public art, and performance projects. A number of the teenagers chose to stay in school and some have gone on to jobs in art-related fields after their art experiences. Brite and Jaglinski serve on the boards and consult for various arts organizations.

Why add an art component to after-school programming?
Art is that part of a school curriculum often considered a frill and the first to go when there is a dollar crunch. But it is a godsend for children who have limited opportunity for expression and inquiry. This concept works for all young people, but offers startling results for those considered at-risk. By participating in the arts in a non-judgmental, positive environment, young minds open, grow, comprehend and accept the world. The arts unlock creativity in young people, enabling them to adjust to challenges and opportunities in their lives.

Art provides young people opportunities that:

Teach problem-solving skills and techniques.

Reinforce academics.

Stir imaginations and the creative spirit.

Provide a way to release feelings in a positive way.

Celebrate individuality.

Make them aware of art and their surroundings.

Develop awareness and understanding of art in cultural heritage.
The arts foster creativity by encouraging children to trust their inner instincts and vision. No judgments are made -- just positive reinforcement and joy in experiencing the freedom of the creative process.

Artists offer a fresh perspective.
We advocate using artists to work with children in after-school programs. Artists are capable of small wonders. Artists are free-thinking and experimental, creating environments that are stimulating and entertaining. Risk is often their by-word when it involves looking at things from different perspectives. Painting a banana blue or a cow purple gives a new perspective and outlook on everyday objects that is whimsical and refreshing. The opportunity for artists to work with children offers unique multi-cultural as well as cross-generation experiences.

Children Ages 10 Through 16
Many after-school programs focus on children 6-10 years old. Targeting children over ten and through the teenage years presents special considerations. Art After-School details several successful projects with teenagers. One project allowed gang members to do a show of graffiti on the gallery walls. The show did not glamorize gangs or graffiti. It gave participants an opportunity to express in a controlled environment what they do and why they do it. It gave the public an opportunity to talk with these young people to see that behind the tough façade are real life-and-death fears and a need to belong. While two local police officers while walking their beat, they came into the center to see what the teens were doing. A long dialogue occurred between the teens and the police officers. In the end both “sides” had a better understanding of each other’s goals and concerns. The police officers bought t-shirts the teens had painted.

Offering Young People Art as Alternative
Art activities do not need to be confined within walls nor is art found only in museums. A familiar neighborhood site offering art is not intimidating but welcoming. Young people enjoy doing public art such as murals on a building. They learn how to use the arts in small ways to enhance their neighborhoods. Successful collaborations with business and local governments give young people visibility and opportunities to learn skills and earn money. The arts can be a bridge to other activities. Sports and art can be combined to design team t-shirts or enhance a basketball court or a gym.

Safe & Sound is a community-based anti-crime initiative in Milwaukee, Wisconsin designed to attack the problem of youth crime through positive alternatives for youth, neighborhood organizing and tough law enforcement. Safe & Sound Safe Place sites are located in a variety of settings including public and private schools, churches and youth centers offering art programming to provide young people with additional options for positive activities during those hours when they are statistically more susceptible to committing or being victims of crime.

Young people need to talk about critical issues that affect them every day, including gangs, crime and pregnancy. Young people can dig deeper into their souls for expression without fear through role playing, writing about their fears and concerns, act them out through performances, or by creating art pieces to express feelings on difficult topics.

A Success Story
Six months after WPCA opened, a neighborhood teenager named Oscar Rodriguez offered to be a volunteer. The art and artists he saw working at the center intrigued him. He kept the gallery open on weekends. He learned to hang exhibits and put together a reception, from buying refreshments to clean-up. He dealt with some difficult demands by artists and helped with technical needs such as lighting and sound requirements. He even helped build stages for performances.

Oscar worked with many famous artists including performance artist Karen Finley. He was her right-hand man in the technical aspects of her performance.

Through these experiences Oscar’s talent and enthusiasm for the arts blossomed and center staff helped him attain a scholarship to the Pratt Institute in New York. When Karen Finley came to Pratt to do a performance, Oscar contacted her. She remembered him and asked him to work with her again.

Oscar graduated from the Milwaukee Institute of Arts and Design with a major in design and a minor in photography. He has a promising career in the marketing department of a manufacturing firm.

Similar opportunities for young people have arisen throughout our experience. Through trial and error, limited only by the boundaries of our collective imagination, we worked as a unit. Adopting our philosophy with the children’s art as the philosophy of operations, there was no right or wrong, good or bad idea. Time and money were our only constraints. We tried innovative programs and often pushed the limits.

It is said that creative people are committed to risk. Just keeping the door open was often very difficult, but we kept the spirit alive in all our endeavors. We were always willing to push beyond the routine.

Academic Achievement
Studies show there are many ways to learn. Noted education authority Howard Gardner, in his book Multiple Intelligences, reports findings on the various ways humans learn. He proposes that we should all be given alternative ways to learn. Some people learn and understand concepts best by hearing them, some learn best through reading and others learn by doing. Often the most effective learning occurs when material is presented in two or more formats. Using the arts to reinforce or introduce academic material is a well-proven method of facilitating education. We worked with a Milwaukee Public School K-5 school to host an artist for a two-week residency art project to reinforce the environmental theme being emphasized in the class course work.

A paper maker worked with the students to teach them how to produce paper pulp from cotton rags, pound pulp into various paper, forms and connect those forms into a permanent mural for their media center. The artist met with the teachers before the project began to find out what the children would be learning in their classrooms, then used her time with them to talk about environmental issues while they were working on the handmade paper mural. As a result of the in-class learning and “hands-on” activities, the children learned about environmental issues and actively participated in recycling while making art. Hanging in their school is a daily reminder of what the students learned about adaptive re-use of materials.

Recreational Programs
Arts and crafts are effective components of a recreational program. These activities can be active or quiet, individual or group, indoors or outdoors. Found objects, cans, and boxes can be used to make a percussion band. Students can do individual projects or group projects that use group dynamics to plan and reach the desired goal. They can paint flowerpots indoors on a rainy day, then take them outdoors to create an urban garden.

Young people should be encouraged to suggest the type of projects they would like to do. They need to feel ownership by being involved and responsible for participation in all aspects of a project. Parents should always be encouraged to attend art-making sessions and make art alongside the children. It is our experience that parents and older siblings who initially shy away from participating in art projects usually become engrossed in making art and will feel comfortable returning to participate.

Personal and Interpersonal Development
Making art involves planning ahead and making choices. It also encourages starting over and finding alternative ways to achieve the desired result. Art encourages freedom of thought. A successful program is not judgmental of the art created. The teacher or artist is a guide, not a master. Young people are encouraged to do individual projects that reflect their personal tastes and direction. Group activities encourage all aspects of project development from idea to completion.

Art is a powerful way to diffuse violence and frustrations. Art helps one deal with the pain experienced in parts of life one may not understand and allows young people to express frustration and anger through their art rather than violence.

The arts provide a window into cross-cultural understanding. Making art offers time for personal pleasure and enjoyment.

Community Partnerships and Collaborations
Art After-School gives details how to develop partnerships and collaborations with community groups and businesses. However, don't limit yourself to organizations that are associated with the arts. Think about the needs of the young people participating and community needs. For example, include law enforcement officers on your list of volunteers. Police officers and young people who work together from planning an art project to implementation and completion will bring together groups often considered adversaries as police officers and young people get to know each other as individuals, not just members of the “other side”.

How To Establish an Art After School Program in Your Community
The mission and goals of a program can vary widely and will change over time to reflect the needs of your neighborhood. Determine a mission statement for your program. Establish a strategic plan to carry out your organizational vision through a set of achievable goals. Always consider your program within the context of the broader community. Programming will be most effective if it reflects and correlates with the needs and vision of the neighborhood.

An after-school art program model is a simple concept adaptable to many settings. It does not have to be located in an art center. It can operate in a stand-alone location or be integrated into on-going after-school or summer programs. The concept can impact all children by nurturing their talents, building their self-esteem, encouraging them to make positive choices while giving them a safe place to just be kids (but is especially effective for those considered to be at risk). The program can be effective with either meager or abundant budgets. This book is based upon real-life experiences. It gives background on the after school art concept to help you have a positive influence on the children in your community.