Kids express their creative self and Southeast Missouri State University students get hands-on arts education experience at an after-school program in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Art Reach offers free art lessons to underserved youth. The program was founded by the Southeast Missouri Arts Council.
Students gather on Tuesdays at the Bridge Outreach Center to get their hands dirty with art projects. Now in its third semester, Art Education students from Southeast Missouri State University volunteer to teach art lessons. Art education instructor Carol Horst said the program is very beneficial to underserved youth and for her art education students.
“It will help their creative problem solving, their visual literacy and develop relationships,” Horst said. “I teach art education classes and my art education students, I feel, would benefit from working with various populations in the community.”
Horst’s students come up with lessons plans that incorporate art history, art production, art criticism and art aesthetics so they can discuss and interpret their work. The curriculum for the program is designed completely around what the students are interested in and what their skill sets are. Approximately 15 students participate in the Art Reach program, ages six through 14.
“It’s a great opportunity for my art education students to work with younger students and watching them make art and being creative and innovative, which our society values,” Horst said. “So it’s been a very positive experience. So much so that I thought it would be a good idea to expand the program.”
Art Reach was recently given a grant of $10,000 for expansion by the National Endowment for the Arts. Because of limited funding, Art Reach was only available for eight weeks last fall and four weeks this spring. With the new grant, Art Reach will soon be available for 16 weeks in the fall and spring. According to Horst, the program may be available at new venues around Cape Girardeau. Possible new locations for Art Reach include the Community Counseling Center, Jefferson School and the Autism Center, in addition to the Bridge.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody and so we’re very excited to be able to expand it,” Horst said.
Horst hopes that soon they will be able to take students on field trips to the Art Council’s galleries and possibly even display some student work in the future. Horst gives scholarships to some students with a particular talent for art so they can attend the Art Academy during summer break. This allows them to attend the workshops for free. At the end of the summer, one of each students’ work from the academy is displayed at the Art Council.
“There was one little boy, I always saw him at Art Reach,” Horst said. “He came every week. He was always there, always excited about doing art. His teacher put one of his pieces in the children’s art festival at the Art Council and he won first place and was very excited.
“There were a couple other students who were at Art Reach last spring who went to the Art Academy over summer and really blossomed. It was a really good opportunity for them to expand their creativity.”
The last session for the semester was on April 29. The program is due to start again in the fall.