Art Enrichment for the Neighboring Children

By Kaycia Sailsman

On Saturdays, classrooms in the Fine Arts Building at SUNY New Paltz are filled with children from kindergarten through high school in and around the New Paltz area. Students from all different grade levels are getting hands on experience working on 3D projects, sculpting, piano, photography, and stop motion animation.

The Saturday Arts Lab is an eight-week art enrichment program and part of the School of Fine and Performing Arts Community Arts School. The program first started in fall 2013. The school hosts a series of art, music, and computer programs for K-12 students.

This program has a lot of benefits to the students, giving them the chance to be creative in a supportive and nurturing environment, parents told The Little Rebellion.

“As an alumna of New Paltz, I want to make sure my son has an opportunity to grow in the arts because it’s something he’s passionate about,” Shana Circe said, whose son took a beginner piano course.

Classes are taught by SUNY New Paltz faculty and undergraduate students in the Art Education program.

Jessica Poser, assistant professor in the Art Education department, and the head of the Saturday Arts Lab, said the program is also a valuable asset to college students who are involved.

“Art education students have a chance to develop and teach classes before they go out to student teachings. They are able to try out projects that they may not be able to do in their schools due to time and space constraints,” Poser said.

Poser told The Little Rebellion that this program “gives the Art Education students a chance to teach kids on campus.” Parents Circe and Marsha Cotten both have two boys enrolled in the Saturday Arts Program and said this program has benefited them economically, academically, and artistically.

“I saw the advertisements for it and believe it is a great resource for my son. It is really important for him to be around people who are in the arts” Circe said.

Art has a way of allowing children to be creative in a different type of way. The introduction of the new standardized tests and Regents does not leave room for students to have time for free creative expression.

When schools experience budget cuts art programs are the first to go. Private art instruction is cost prohibitive for most families in the Hudson Valley. The Saturday Arts Lab at SUNY New Paltz brings together a formal art education for students at an affordable rate for parents. The classes range in prices from beginner piano $112, Adventures in Art K-2 $168, Stop Motion Animation $224, and a class on how to write your own picture book which costs $336.

The prices for these classes are very cost effective compared to outside private tutoring. For some New Paltz faculty who take advantage of these services are eligible for a discount; there are also scholarships available for those who fall within a certain income level.

“If the child has an interest, it is important to follow it,” says Cotten. “I think it brings happiness and satisfaction in their lives. Having knowledge in music can connect you to the world.”

The program is funded through grants provided through the State University of New York. The money provided through SUNY is put towards most of the scholarships that the program provides for income eligible students.

“The program was started with a seed grant from SUNY Central. This funds us through the first three years. After that, we’ll need to be self-sustaining, but we’ll continue to seek grants to fund the program” Poser said.

Parents enjoy the amenities of this program and all the benefits that is has brought upon their children. This program combines fun and art education and allows students an outlet from their day-to-day academic schedules.

“It gives students something fun to do outside of an academic setting. Music has a great impact on children, it can affect their lives in many positive ways” Cotten said.

Saturday Arts Lab will be starting back up in fall 2015 semester. For more information or to register your child, visit the program’s website.

Much of animation in this video was done by students from the spring 2014 session of Saturday Arts Lab at SUNY New Paltz. This music video  was for Dean Jones, local Grammy-Award-winning producer and a member of the kids’ rock band, Dog on Fleas.