CHAMPAIGN — A new after-school program for Edison Middle School students will have them learning about art in a structured way.
The program will allow for 50 students to participate in weekly after-school art classes at Edison and The I.D.E.A. Store in Champaign. It also allows for a larger monthly activity for more Edison students at the Champaign Public Library.
The program has several goals, said Kelly White, arts council 40 North's executive director, and has several community groups working together to achieve them.
Last year, the arts council adopted a new strategic plan that includes a focus on art education, White said, and the organization especially wanted to create a program that would fill a need while educating students.
Many Edison students have unstructured time after school and spend it at the Champaign Public Library, she said.
"It's an opportunity to provide them with ... hands-on experience with art production," White said, and the teachers are working on lessons that will have students drawing from their own experiences. The class at The I.D.E.A. Store will focus on making art from unusual materials.
"They will really have to think about who they are in this community and who they want to be," White said. "It's a much broader impact, rather than just making a piece of art. They will explore some interesting topics, I think, at an age where they're really trying to find their voice. I think it's a key time to start that."
Other goals for the program are to give students "creative problem-solving opportunities," a personal voice and a chance to develop their leadership and collaboration skills, according to a news release.
One class, for 25 students, will be offered at Edison Middle School's art room, and will be taught by Edison art teacher Lolita Zwettler.
The other, also for a group of 25 students, will be at the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation's I.D.E.A. Store, and taught by Emily Denis, a graduate student in the University of Illinois' art education department.
Students will be supervised as they walk to The I.D.E.A. Store, White said, and organizers are still discussing transportation for inclement weather.
The monthly library activity will allow the students to show their classmates what they've been doing in the program and teach them, as well, said Shauna Carey, who is on the 40 North board and serves as its arts education committee chairwoman.
A grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation is paying for teachers and supplies, Carey said.
Carey taught art for 17 years at the middle school level and for 18 years at the elementary school level.
"I thought it would be a great opportunity for kids," Carey said, even though it's only one night a week, she called it "an alternative to entertaining themselves after school."
"The arts are such a good way to hook kids," Carey said. "I think middle school kids have such great potential. ... They're just full of energy and they have great ideas and they want to collaborate."
But there's not a lot for kids that age to do after school, she said, and they don't yet have their own transportation.
The program will start in September and continue until May, and Carey said those involved will spend the first few weeks of letting students and families know about it, starting at registration.
The after-school program will be a collaboration among the 40 North 88 West, the Champaign County Arts Council, Edison Middle School, the Champaign Urbana Schools Foundation's I.D.E.A. Store and the University of Illinois Art Education Department.
During the first year, those organizing the program will carefully assess it, with the goal of growing it in the future, White said.
However, Carey said, the money from the Lumpkin Family Foundation is only available for one year.
"We are doing everything we can to quantify the goals we have for the program and the kids," she said, and they will document progress. "What we really want to do is to be able to look around our community, our city, and figure out how we can keep the program going after this year and expand it."