By Hayley Thomas
A childlike world of whimsy has transformed Studios on the Park thanks to an exhibition of more than 450 works created by Virginia Peterson and Pat Butler Elementary School students. The young Studios on the Park Kids Art Smart Program participants created the vibrant and unique masterpieces during multiple visits to the artist’s nonprofit throughout the fall season.
Kids Art Smart volunteer Kathy Coombs worked with kindergarten students this fall. As a retired art teacher, she said she has seen how expanding a child’s creativity can unlock a sense of joy and accomplishment.
"The kids are so open and enthusiastic - they don't realize how much they can do," said Coombs. "With the directed art lessons, they are able to experience and create their own artwork. It's not a coloring book - it is their own artwork."
According to Studios on the Park Programs Directors Sasha Irving, the Kids Art Smart program is "life-changing" for local youth, serving more than 4,000 Paso Robles elementary school students to date.
"Many of these students are low-income and at-risk and receive no formal arts education," said Irving. "The result is a lost opportunity to develop creative thinking and personal expression. To ensure all students can participate, Studios on the Park provides every field trip for free."
Over the weekend of Dec. 7, artwork created by Virginia Peterson Elementary School students was displayed and celebrated by the community. Works crafted by Pat Butler Elementary School students will be shown Thursday, Dec. 12 with a special reception slated for Saturday, Dec 14.
Irving said it's incredible to give children a chance to show - and be appreciated for - their individual artistic efforts.
"Exhibits at Studios on the Park honor participating students in a professional gallery setting and allow families and the public to see the incredible creations of these talented youngsters," she said.
Pat Butler Principal Dorothy Halic said she could not thank Studios on the Park enough for their ongoing efforts exposing youth to creativity and artistic expression.
"The kids get to learn with real artists, and it's just a win-win all around," said Halic. "Especially now, I can't say enough good about the Studios on the Park Kids Art Smart Program."
Halic said it's important to remember that the young artists will someday become adults within the community. Programs like Kids Art Smart can help to nurture a sense of connection and purpose.
"All the kids, along with their families, get to go see their work displayed, and it's just a really great reflection of the whole community," said Halic. "The art projects vary, and it's pretty amazing to see what the kids do with the artwork." I cannot thank Studios no the Park enough for the top-notch, professional job they do and for showing the community that art really is important."
For more information on the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 238-9800 or visit www.studiosonthepark.org.