“After School Art” program offers equal access to arts programs

Harper McDonald, 6, is all smiles about starting her second year at the Glen Arbor Art Center’s “After School Art” program. Photo by Sarah Cheek-Toomey

From staff reports

It’s back to school for the Glen Arbor Arts Center’s (GAAC) popular After School Art program, which begins Tuesday, September 24.

The GAAC offers quality, immersive experiences for our community’s youngest artists, in grades K-4, to build a life-long foundation of participation and appreciation for the fine arts. Through thoughtful instruction by Sarah Cheek-Toomey, the GAAC’s youth program coordinator, and engaging, process-oriented projects, the GAAC hopes to inspire and support all children in building their own creative confidence. Students engage in visual arts experience that focus on technique, exposure to different media and most importantly fun. All participants will be featured in a gallery exhibition.

There are four, six-week sessions offered during the 2019-2020 school year. Each class runs from 4-5:30 pm. Those sessions are Sept. 24-Oct. 29, Nov. 5-Dec. 10, Jan. 7-Feb. 11, and Feb. 25-April. 14.

The After School Art program has been a big hit with Glen Arbor residents Kenna and Michael McDonald’s daughters, Adelaide (nearly 8), Harper (6, pictured on the cover page), and Lucy (3).

“Sarah Cheek-Toomey is fantastic,” said Kenna. “She knows when to guide the students toward a certain end, and when to foster their creativity. I’ve never seen an art teacher so good with kids.”

Kenna, who grew up in the community and preceded her children at Glen Lake School, says she has watched the Arts Center grow more inclusive. “I know it went through a rebranding from the Glen Arbor Art Association to the Arts Center. They’ve done great job of making the community feel more welcome.”

Michael says the Arts Center’s outreach to area students coincides with a rising chorus calling for Glen Lake and other schools to focus on more than just sports.

Each After School Art class has a maximum capacity of 12 students. That low student-teacher ratio insures individualized instruction.

The cost is $65 for GAAC members and $75 for nonmembers with a $10 multi-child discount. A snack and all art supplies are included. Glen Lake School students may ride the bus to the GAAC.

According to Sarah Cheek-Toomey, the Arts Center offers several scholarships and would like to expand the number of students taking advantage of funds set aside for tuition assistance. Those funds are generally granted on a first-come basis and consider the family’s financial ability.

Of the 100-150 students who participate in the After School Art program, about 20 percent are granted assistance through scholarships. The scholarships are named after Ben and Ananda Bricker, who formed the Glen Arbor Art Association in the 1980s together with Suzanne Wilson.

“The GAAC believes that the arts are for everyone and by providing equal access to arts programing we are building the foundation of a strong, creative community,” says Cheek-Toomey.

“As an arts educator I speak to a lot to students finding their own creative confidence or belief in their creative abilities. Children need an opportunity to explore their own ideas and to experiment with various media in a safe and supportive environment. Our After School Art program really rallies a sense of community in the students that participate. Students work collaboratively and develop a sense of comradery.”

For more information and to register online, visit GlenArborArt.org and click on CLASSES.