Kids discover their inner artist

Dancing, painting, drumming are all part of Baltimore school's Artreach Family Day

October 29, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,SUN REPORTER

Karron Alston held back at first, eyeing the dance instructor as she twirled through the air with her colorful scarf. When it came time for her to emulate the moves, Karron took a few steps forward, saw everyone watching, and went right back to the corner.

But with a little prompting, the 2-year-old made another try, holding the scarf over her head as she began moving across the floor. Suddenly, she smiled. And for the rest of the session she stayed in the middle of room, dancing.

Hundreds of families came to the Baltimore School for the Arts yesterday for the second annual Artreach Family Day, created to engage children in the arts - from letting them bang on drums and play trombones to walking them through the basics of ballet.

Organizers said they hope the program reaches children who otherwise might not be exposed to the arts and inspires those who already have had some experience. The curriculum is an extension of an after-school and weekend program called TWIGS that takes place during the school year.

"We're serving a lot of families and children, but we know there are many more out there who don't have access to the arts," said Georgia King, who coordinates the TWIGS program and who planned yesterday's event. "Smiles are what we're looking for."

Cecelia Dibble, 5, was full of them. She and her mother, Coleen, studied a piece of art in the school's hallway made partly out of a chest of drawers. Cecelia peered into the drawers explaining what she saw - clothing, a toy statue. Then she made an abrupt discovery.

"I've got paint on my hand," Cecelia said as she held up a face mask she helped to paint minutes before in one of the program's workshops.

"You sure do," her mother said.

Professional artists and School for the Arts faculty led the workshops and the children picked which lesson they wanted to attend. Karron, the initially reluctant dancer, along with several dozen other children and their parents, were led by Maria Broom.

Broom, an actress and dancer, showed them how to tell stories through dance by using body language and facial expressions.

"It gives them something to do so they don't think about bad stuff all the time, and it educates them," said Kathleen Saunders, Karron's mother, who took a few turns on the dance floor herself. "People should focus on this stuff, not the negative. It's a good thing."

Artreach is part of Free Fall Baltimore, a series of free arts, history and museum events in the city. The program also received a grant from the city.

For Sandra Sykes, it was a chance to feed her son's fascination with music - percussion, specifically. Christopher, 7, stood guard near a set of bongos, hitting them at every opportunity. He later graduated to the even louder bass drum.

"Every time they ask for a volunteer his hand goes up. He loves it. He's playing everything," Sandra Sykes said. "I think he's going to be a musician."

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