We’ve all heard plenty about how cash-strapped schools have been forced to cut their arts programs. For Kitchener resident Paul Field, who brought the Art Innovators KidzArt program to Waterloo Region schools last year, the benefits of an art education extend far beyond matters of aesthetics.“More than just the art, it’s the confidence boost it gives,” said Field, whose program was available this year at John Mahood and Riverside public schools, and whose summer program is about to launch in Elmira.
“They all come into their classes, see what they have to paint, and the majority of them say they can’t do it. By the end of the hour, all of them have done it, because the instructors break it down into small, achievable steps.”
He added, “I’m getting calls from parents all the time that it’s helping them in other areas of their life, and that’s more important than just the art instruction.”
Described as “a confidence-building creative arts program,” Art Innovators is a worldwide organization aimed at schoolchildren who might not otherwise be exposed. Field, a veteran of social welfare programs in the Region, has long spearheaded arts initiatives at halfway houses, women’s shelters, prisons, and youth centres. He brought the franchise to Waterloo when government funding for these charity programs dried up, with parent-paid lunch and after-school clubs helping to fund free programs for the needy.
Quickly, however, Arts Innovators Waterloo took a life of its own: within six months, 30 of the Waterloo Region’s public, Catholic, and French schools came onboard, with more expected next year. The program has expanded to incorporate 13 staff and more than 600 participating students.
The success of the school program has justified the launch of summer camps throughout the region, including Elmira. Each day of the summer program will offer students a chance to work in a different medium, from usual suspects like paint, clay, markers, and photography, plus less-expected disciplines like yoga and African drumming/drum-making, for a well-rounded artistic experience.
“We use yoga and music to create a safe environment, and within that environment you just see amazing pieces of art,” said Field, including the opportunity to create huge, Jackson Pollack-style splash-paint murals.
“This is safari adventure-themed, so we’ll be doing it outside.”
And if any local students have aspirations of becoming the next Picasso or Monet, take note that students will help Field organize exhibitions of their art. Recently, Art Innovators student paintings have been showcased at Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and THEMUSEUM in Kitchener.
“We had over 500 students display their art,” said Field. “Some of the kids sell their art. How often can a kid be at a professional gallery?
“It’s not just an art program and they’re done. It’s a real confidence boost.”
Art Innovators’ Elmira camp takes place July 22-26, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Trinity United Church.