A program providing arts education and opportunities to elementary-aged children in the North Fork Valley is growing.
Arts for All will expand into the Hotchkiss K-8 School beginning this fall thanks to a $500 grant awarded to the Blue Sage Center for the Arts by the Sheila Fortune Foundation. Now entering its third year, Arts for All is a collaboration between the Blue Sage Center for the Arts, Mountain Harvest Creative and The Learning Council. Blue Sage board member Mary Bachran wrote the grant.
The Sheila Fortune Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping at-risk youth gain access to, expression through, and exposure to, educational arts activities. What sold the Sheila Fortune Fund is Arts for All's continued collaboration, said program director Neal Schwieterman. "It's still novel that three disparate groups would join forces for the benefit of kids."
Arts for All launched in 2016 as a pilot after-school program, focusing primarily on students enrolled at Paonia Elementary School and the North Fork School of Integrated Studies, a school within a school at PES. It was created in response to dwindling arts offerings in schools due to staff and funding cuts following the 2008 recession and grew out of a discussion by the three nonprofits, who asked how they can ensure that kids have access to a variety of arts classes. Until schools can again offer classes to meet student needs, the program will attempt to fill in the gaps.
The program offers classes in the visual arts, dance, music, drama and the circus arts, one of the program's most popular classes. The last two years, circus arts students have entered the July 4 Cherry Days parade.
"There's an exciting nature about circus arts" that draws both male and female students in, said Schwieterman.
Arts for All also offers summer programs, which are currently winding down. Response has been positive, said Schwieterman. This summer the Circus Arts class was one student away from filling up, and a Film Animation class was at capacity.
The next phase is expansion into Hotchkiss. The first semester, students will be offered a World Music concerts at PES, with a duplicate program offered at HK-8. With new principal Bryan Hollembeak arriving at HK8 this fall, the concerts will give both the school and Arts for All an opportunity to develop a relationship, said Schwieterman. In the second semester, classes will be offered to HK-8 students.
The program's long-term goal is to offer arts classes to all elementary-aged students in the North Fork area, said Schwieterman.