It was graduation day Friday for students of Arts in the Park, an eight-week long summer art program for area children. For many, the program allowed local youth to experience the arts for the first time. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann was at the graduation ceremony.
An excited group of kids gathers inside the Creamery Arts Center, as their parents await a series of presentations. The festivities begin with some of the youngest children reading their individual poems one by one to the entire group.
For the last eight weeks, these 65 kids ages kindergarten through 8th grade from the Springfield Community Center have spent their days in the Springfield Arts Council’s Art in the Park summer workshops. Stephanie Cramer, director of Programs and Exhibitions, says this is the 13th year of the summer program.
“Most of these children would not have the opportunity to do ballet, play and instrument or make pottery—that’s one of their favorite [activities],” Cramer says.
Each week the kids get to explore something new as representatives from various organizations, including but not limited to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield Ballet, and Springfield Little Theater teach new experiences and opportunities.
Cramer says most of these kids come from Title I schools and may have limited resources. She says one thing they want to instill in the kids is possibility, while providing a safe learning environment during the out-of-school months. This year’s theme is “Imagine What I Can Be” inspiring the children to grow and explore, says Cramer.
“Imagine-- that’s my favorite word. And I love for kids to be able to visualize what could be possible for them. Sometimes these kids find their first success in this program. Possibly their reading levels and that kind of thing are lower. Maybe for the first time, just like myself I found out in the fourth grade I could be an artist and I said “yes!”—that’s what you see in these kids,” says Cramer.
Cramer says she is often tickled by a child’s ambitions.
“One of the children, she was dressed all in pink and she practically had a tutu on, was asked what she wanted to be. She spun around and said, ‘I want to be a dentist.’ I thought I have never seen a five year old who wants to be a dentist, I thought she was going to say princess for sure, and I thought that was pretty great,” says Cramer.
One of her favorite things, says Cramer, is that she gets to watch many of these children grow as they return each year. She adds that graduates have even returned to the program later on as counselors.
The program is sponsored by the Missouri Art Council, Musgrave Foundation, Childhood In Its Landscape Fund and Megan Cramer Memorial Fund. It is free for children and Cramer says there is usually a waiting list. She recommends to parents wanting to sign their kids up for next summer to do so through the Springfield Community Center at the beginning of 2015.