By ANGIE HAFLICH
With many schools facing budget cuts, particularly to arts programs, Garden City Arts has taken matters into their own hands by offering arts classes to area kids.
Laurie Chapman, executive director of Garden City Arts, who herself is an artist, said she had read articles and seen statistics indicating that the future workforce will be required to be more creative thinkers, in what's being called the innovation age.
"With all the technology and everything that touches, whether it's websites or video games or whatever, we're moving more into an innovation (age), and you have to have your creative thinking cap on to be able to be successful there. So they're really showing that of anything, we really need to be pushing the arts now," Chapman said. "When you look at the dynamics of state funding for education, with all the cuts that are being made, arts is the first thing that gets slashed. We're cutting ourselves off at the knees because now we're making the kids incapable of being able to be creative thinkers. So it's really going to be up to organizations like us — the nonprofits, art centers or museums — to be able to provide programming that can fit that element."
Chapman has been teaching Artful Afternoons since June 4 at the Gallery, 318 N. Main St. Artful Afternoons is for children between 5 and 15 years of age and is offered Tuesdays through Fridays.
On Tuesdays, the focus is on drawing; on Wednesdays, it's on painting; and on Friday, it's on sculpture and jewelry.
David Johnson, 9, said sculpting is his favorite.
"I like making things out of clay," he said.
Alondra Guzman, also 9, said she, too, likes sculpting because it's like playing with Play-Doh.
Guzman and her younger sister, 5-year-old Maggie Guzman, have been coming to the art classes for about a week.
Maggie said she likes painting. As the kids worked on a journal Thursday, which they made out of cardboard, tissue paper and paint, she asked if she could pick green tissue paper.
"I like this pink, and I want this color, this color and this color," she said, excitedly.
Maggie said her favorite kind of art is painting.
"I like painting. I like that it's fun, and I have something to do," she said.
When Maggie found out what their project was on Thursday, she said she likes making books.
Their mother, Carmen Guzman, said the girls really enjoy the classes.
"This is relaxing to them," she said. "They are learning new techniques, and they like to show it to me and I say to them, 'This is awesome.'"
Chapman said that during the summer, classes also focused on print making and photography.
Chapman not only works with younger kids, but she also finds ways to work with high school students. Alberto Hernandez, 17, is her part-time assistant from the high school.
"It's been a real blessing having him here this summer. He's really good with kids," Chapman said.
Hernandez started as an intern at the Gallery, and when the part-time job opening became available, he took the job.
"I learn a lot here. I've had odd jobs before. I've worked in restaurants, I've worked in construction, but nothing really compares to working here," Hernandez said. "I see a lot of potential in the kids, and they get a lot of opportunities I didn't have when I was a kid that I could have really used."
During a high school show in January, Chapman said, four high school students who had work in the show were awarded with scholarships from Fort Hays State University. At some point, she hopes to combine an internship with Garden City Arts with a scholarship opportunity.
"What I'm visualizing now is having someone here in the community sponsor a scholarship where the kids put in so many hours, calling artists, scheduling the shows, hanging the shows, scheduling the receptions and if they put in those hours, they get a scholarship in return for their work," Chapman said.
She said that would not only lighten her workload but provide the students with experience in both coordinating art shows and in learning what art galleries will expect of them as artists.
"It gives them a little head start into that field," Chapman said.
Younger children also can learn about the arts. During the summer, on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., the N.E.W., Never Ending Workshop, is held for children ages 3 to 5.
Chapman said all of the classes are coming to an end at the end of next week, since school will be starting up soon.
For more information about the classes offered through Garden City Arts, contact Chapman at 260-9700. For each week's class schedule in detail, visit the Garden City Arts' Facebook page, www.facebook.com/GardenCityArts, or check the bulletin board at the Gallery.