Connecting art to kids… Center for the Arts all in: Part 1

Understanding the importance of exposing local kids to art

By Mark Reaman 

(This is a two-part series in which we look at how the community is working to expose local children to the artistic world. Part 1 focuses on the relationship between the Center for the Arts and the CB Community School.)

Like so many things in life, sports, academics, reading, appreciation for and future participation in the arts comes easiest if exposed as a child. Given the rich foundation of art in Crested Butte, it should be no surprise that one of the art leaders in the valley is working to instill that appreciation in young students…but the extent to which that happens might actually be surprising.

The Crested Butte Center for the Arts is passionate about exposing young people to the arts. Whether dance, opera or photography, the Center purposefully coordinates with the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS) and visiting artists to touch kids living in the valley.

“We at the Center believe wholeheartedly that the arts are valuable and essential to a community and particularly the children in the community,” explained Center for the Arts co-executive director Melissa Mason. “A well-rounded education includes a robust arts curriculum and arts experiences which inherently teach varied perspectives, creative problem solving with more than one solution, nuance as important, and that the arts are valuable and essential.”

The local students appreciate and enjoy their time working with the Center. For example, when asked what they like about being able to go to dance class at the Center during the week, they touched on the social and exercise benefits. “I like going to the Center for the Arts to dance because I get to let out all my energy,” said local student C Sea. “It is different from gym, because there are not as many rules and it’s a smaller group.”

That passion for art is manifested in many programs and partnerships held throughout the year that embrace local students.

This spring, CB students will have the chance to interact with artists from Opera Colorado, professional songwriters in the country music realm and the Kissidugu Foundation that focuses on African cultural experience.

But as you might expect, it’s not always easy and that is in part because of financial requirements. It’s not easy or cheap to provide that professional artistic experience to students but those in charge are working to make it happen.

A history of exposing kids to art

“The Center has long supported programs at CBCS,” said Mason. “Over the years we have funded kids going out on a three-day hut trip with Raynor Czerwinski to learn photography. We have sponsored multiple years of cast iron sculpture residencies and kids making iron sculpture. Alpin Hong came to perform and was involved in the school. There is the AP Art Mentorship program. We have after school clubs, and we have sponsored a variety of artists from Supaman, to the Creede Repertory Theater, Dance Aspen and the Kissidugu Foundation. I could go on, but the main message is that the Center has always done this type of outreach in the 12-plus years I’ve been at the Center but often people don’t realize how involved the Center is in some of these efforts.”

Mason said the Center often partners with the CBCS Enrichment Program to provide the type of artistic experiences not offered at the school. 

“We are super lucky to have an active and willing partner in Jill VanTiel from the school’s Enrichment Program,” said Mason. “Jill does the work of taking the proposed program to the teachers at the school and seeing who can best fit the opportunity into their curriculum. And when she can fit it into her budget, if it meets her goals as well, she often also helps with funding. So, for our songwriting program this March, Jill put the opportunity out to elementary and secondary teachers, and it was fifth grade who was able to take the opportunity for this program.”

Local fifth graders have been writing lyrics to songs in class for the last few months and have sent those to the professional country songwriters who then choose a few to put to music. While in Crested Butte for a Tough Enough to Wear Pink event this March, the songwriters will do an assembly with the kids about songwriting and perform some of the kids’ songs.

VanTiel agreed that the partnership between the community school and community arts center is a valuable connection. 

“The Enrichment Program and the Center have worked together for the past 20 years to develop creative, resilient ways to bring high-quality musicians, actors, dancers, and artists to work with Crested Butte’s students, including such talents as the Creede Repertory Theatre, Supaman, and the Colorado Ballet,” she said. “In addition to performance and event programming, the Center for the Arts and the Enrichment Program collaborate on several after-school clubs throughout the school year, such as the Elevated Arts Club and the Filmmakers’ Club. Designed for middle- and high-school students, these longer-term classes (clubs) provide an incredible opportunity for students to explore an area of interest to them that is not otherwise available within the parameters of our public school system.” 

Kaya Wolsey of DanceAspen said the connection with kids is important to the dancers as well as the students. “By offering programs that allow us to interact with and educate young students, we not only find inspiration as a dance company but also aspire to instill in these children a lifelong love and appreciation for the arts,” she said. “In doing so, we hope to play a role in preserving the arts for future generations to enjoy.”

Next week we’ll connect with some more of the visiting artists who explain how important it is for them to expose their craft to students.

Check Also

Local health coalition starts pilot wellness program

Looking to enroll 150 community members from construction, service and nonprofit industries By Katherine Nettles …