Two grants totalling $22,500 are ensuring that a successful pilot arts program for kids will continue this year in Alpena.
Starting in March, Ready, Set, Create! will bus classes of fifth grade students from Alpena Public Schools once a week for five weeks to Art in the Loft, where they will be given professional arts instruction in a real arts gallery setting. While there, the students will be studying artistic masterworks, learning to appreciate art in various mediums and styles, and fostering their own creativity with hands-on activities.
"Many students receive little to no arts education, and this program is helping to supplement the arts they may be receiving in schools," said Art in the Loft Education Coordinator Sarah Altman, who as a public school arts instructor, designed the program and is teaching it.
News Photo by Diane Speer
Sarah Altman, education coordinator at Art in the Loft, helps Noah Carstens, a fifth grade student at Immanuel Lutheran School during his participation in a 2011 pilot program of Ready, Set, Create! The creative arts program is being expanded this year to fifth graders in Alpena Public Schools. Altman continues to serve as the instructor.
"In a world that can be so busy and stressful, the arts can teach children to appreciate the details and beauty of things around them," Altman said. "The arts help to develop creative thinking skills and problem-solving techniques which can aid overall academic achievement, school success and preparation for the work world."
A pilot Ready, Set, Create! program was made possible through grant support from the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan. Extremely well-received, the pilot ran from October through December of last year and involved fifth graders from Immanuel Lutheran, All Saints, Pied Piper, Bingham Arts Academy and home-schoolers.
"We received lots of positive feedback from students, teachers and even parents who came to volunteer," Altman said. "Some of the highest praise and best moments came from the Pied Piper students, many of which were visiting the gallery for the first time. Their enthusiasm was unbridled and very motivating."
With expansion into the public schools, the program is now expected to impact approximately 425 fifth graders. It is being funded with a $15,000 grant from the Alpena County Youth and Recreation Committee and a $7,500 grant from Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs.
"For those students who already receive arts instruction in school, this program supplements and enhances what they are learning by giving them a chance to view and create artwork in the context of an art gallery, where they can interact with other artists and explore a wide range of media which might not be possible in any other environment," said Karen Bennett of Art in the Loft.
Bennett said Art in the Loft has always focused on involving youth in its programs. The hope is that the five-week introductory instruction will inspire the students and their families to participate in continued offerings at Art in the Loft.
"The five-week introduction will set the stage for continued involvement by these students in after-school and summer workshops, as well as drop-in arts center activities and projects," Bennett said. "As these students enter their teens, they will have access to a familiar, welcoming, inviting and supervised place to engage in after-school activities that allow creative self-expression, enhance self-esteem and promote positive interactions with peers and adults."
Ready, Set, Create! is patterned after the popular Ready, Set, Swim! and Ready, Set, Serve! programs started in 2006 and 2007 by Darlene Wilmot and Norm Sommerfeld of Synchronicity, LLC. The two lent their expertise during the development of this latest Ready, Set venture.
Ready, Set, Swim! began as a common sense idea by Wilmot and Sommerfeld to teach area second graders to swim while making use of an under-utilized facility, the Plaza Pool. Over 2,200 students have taken swimming lessons since the program started. The Plaza Pool has since taken over this program.
Ready, Set, Serve! teaches the life-long sport of tennis to area third graders. It gives kids access to four indoor courts inside the APlex. The Alpena Tennis Association has been vital to the success of this program.
Wilmot and Sommerfeld are enthused to see the expansion of their efforts into the arts.
"It's a fabulous opportunity for fifth graders," Wilmot said. "It's great to branch out and have the kids experience art in an art gallery setting. That's the coolest thing of all - seeing the practical application."