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Arts Council's "Growing Up in the Arts" Program for At-Risk Kids

RANDY: Among the most important programs provided by the Springfield Regional Arts Council is “Growing Up in the Arts,” a combination of three long-running Arts Council services for children ages 3 to 13: the “Arts in the Park” summer workshops, which have been running for 12 years; the after-school “Childhood in its Landscapes;” and “Mini Monet Mondays” for the pre-kindergarten set.  “Growing Up in the Arts” offers weekly instruction in the visual, performing and literary arts for kids from the Lighthouse Child and Family Development Center and the Springfield Community Center.  Those two centers were chosen to partner with the Arts Council because every child served is considered “at-risk” or “under-served.”  The statistics are sobering: fully 90 percent of the elementary and middle-school age students at the Springfield Community Center are on the Public Schools free and reduced lunch program; 86% are categorized as being in an under-served minority. 

     At this Tuesday-afternoon gathering, about a dozen kids from the Springfield Community Center and Boyd Elementary School are drawing designs on shiny blank CD-Rs with colored marker pens, under the watchful eyes of art teacher Julie Taylor-Jones; intern Ray Hargis (a graduate student working on a teaching degree); and Stephanie Cramer, the Arts Council’s Director of Programs and Exhibitions.

(Fade up on JULIE TAYLOR-JONES talking to the kids about “symmetry”)...if you were a ‘symmetry’ person this first time, maybe you’ll decide that you don’t want to be a ‘symmetry’ person the next time, and you’re going to put your lines wherever you want!”

RANDY:  Julie Taylor-Jones obviously loves working with these kids.

JULIE TAYLOR-JONES: Oh, it’s wonderful!  It’s wonderful.

RANDY: Do you wish you could do it more than just one day a week?

JULIE: Absolutely!  I wish I could bottle their creativity! (laughs)

RANDY: Bottle it and sell it!

JULIE: Yes, absolutely!

RANDY: Stephanie Cramer of the Springfield Regional Arts Council.

STEPHANIE CRAMER: It’s wonderful to watch them grow, to watch their maturity levels change.  And they just—they know it’s a safe place where they’re going to get a snack, they’re going to be treated well, they’re going to be expected to treat us well.  And then I try to emphasize the fact that they are dealing with professional artists who are some of the top people in their field, who are reaching out to—local artists teaching local children who wouldn’t normally have the access.

RANDY: One of the regulars at “Growing Up in the Arts” is 9-year-old Tameya, a fourth grader at Boyd Elementary.  She’s been in the program for five years—and like many kids, for her it’s a family affair.

TAMEYA: Well, my sisters, they wanted to come because it had just now opened. And we were supposed to be five to come—but Mr. Calvin, he let me come when I was four!

RANDY: “Mr. Calvin” is Calvin Allen, the Executive Director of the Springfield Community Center, who corrals these youngsters into a large van and drives them south on Sherman Street to the Creamery every week for these art classes.  Tameya has three older sisters, two of whom are also in the “Growing Up in the Arts” program.

TAMEYA: Not one of them—‘cause she didn’t want to come!

RANDY: For her part, Tameya didn’t really want to TALK—at least, not to this strange guy with a microphone!  It took me, Stephanie Cramer and Calvin Allen to coax some good comments out of her.  But she did tell me about some of the art projects she’s worked on in “Growing Up in the Arts.”

TAMEYA: We’ve done weaving; we’ve done pottery; we did ballet; we did music.

RANDY: Which ones do you like the best?

TAMEYA:  I liked the pottery and the weaving.

RANDY: So you like the “hands-on” stuff.

TAMEYA: Yeah.

RANDY: Now, do you like the “performing” things, the music or the dance or—

TAMEYA: Kind of... but I’m not—I don’t really like ballet.

RANDY: Well, drawing’s not her favorite either.

TAMEYA: No.. . I suck at drawing!

RANDY: The stuff that you make here, do you get to take it home with you?

TAMEYA:  Yeah, sometimes.

RANDY: Do you keep it in your room?

TAMEYA: Sometimes we, like, put it on the front porch, let it hang down.

RANDY: What is it that you like about coming here?

TAMEYA: That things are easy to do, and it’s never, like, complicated, and they explain everything so that you can get what they’re saying.

RANDY: Tameya is in a Springfield R-12 program for gifted students called “Bridges,” says Stephanie Cramer of the Arts Council.

STEPHANIE:  She has a very long concentration (span).  The second year I was here we were playing a game—we would go, “Duck, duck”—what is that game?

RANDY and TAMEYA together: “Duck, duck, goose”—yeah.

STEPHANIE: “Duck, duck, goose.” She outdid everyone in the room—you could not distract her!  Every kid, even kids that were in the sixth or seventh grade—she won every time.

RANDY: This afternoon at 4:30 during All Things Considered, you’ll hear Calvin Allen of the Springfield Community Center talk about how the “Growing Up in the Arts” program helps these at-risk kids excel academically; and you’ll meet 8-year-old Tatyana, who’s also in the program.