by Morgan Yeatts
Our goal at the Academy “is to overcome barriers in the community in order to better serve underserved and underrepresented populations, [and to] reach those with the arts who don’t have access,” said Evan Smith, Director of Community Outreach. One of the best ways we complete this mission is through camps and classes designed to provide children, from toddlers to teens, with access to arts and culture in the safe and nurturing environment the Academy provides.
“Our engagement in the arts for arts sake is not enough in telling our story,” said Geoffrey Kershner, Executive Director. Referencing an article from Americans for the Arts entitled The Top 10 Skills Children Learn From the Arts, he continued, “it has been proven that all 10 of these tangible life skills,” including creativity, confidence, problem-solving, perseverance, and other skills, “are acquired through arts activity. It is these very skills that are enhancing the effectiveness of the overall program and create value in what we are providing.”
The Academy’s partnership and collaboration with the Lynchburg area YMCA is a perfect example of this mission in action.
The 6-week “Summer Learning Loss Prevention” camp provides rising 3rd graders with the chance to participate in five different aspects of the arts through classes; dance, music, pottery, art, and improv acting. This year is the third for the camp, and 240 kids were able to participate this summer alone.
“A lot of these kids haven’t had the ability to explore the arts and different avenues of art,” said Director of Education, Kelly Posenauer. The camp is meant to expand their horizons, she says, and awaken in them a cultural awareness. “Arts are an important cultural skill to have.”
The activities the kids participate in during the camp are intended to promote and enhance the top 10 skills listed in the aforementioned article, within each of the participants, from creativity through pottery and art, perseverance and focus through music and dance, collaboration through improv, collaboration through group work.
The YMCA camp has proven to be an effective way to reach young kids in the community. Evan hopes that the campers will make the most of their time here. “This is a space for them, and they deserve to be here” he says, “the arts and creative expression shouldn’t be a privilege, they should be a right”.
The Academy Center of the Arts continues to seek out and discover opportunities to provide the community with access to arts and culture in new and tangible ways, whether through concerts geared towards adults, classes for teens, camps for kids, or events for families. Serving our community is top priority, and as Kelly says, “that includes everyone in our community”.