Nonprofit arts group hopes to change lives through the arts

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Art Station is ready to welcome Bloomington-Normal children “home” where they can be messy and explore new means of expression through art. “I’m so excited to have people come and participate with us, “ said Joey Hatch, education coordinator for the group. “Our goal […]

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — The Illinois Art Station is ready to welcome Bloomington-Normal children “home” where they can be messy and explore new means of expression through art.

“I’m so excited to have people come and participate with us, “ said Joey Hatch, education coordinator for the group. “Our goal is to make as much art with as many kids as possible, so it’s very exciting to be able to have the opportunity to do that in our new building.”

The station, now in its first brick and mortar location in Normal, had a “slow opening” this fall, with some programs beginning after the official grand opening in September. But this spring, the educators are ready to go “full-on” with expanded programs hosted in the new facility, The Pantagraph reports.

The nonprofit organization, which provides art experiences for children and their families with mobile programs offered since 2018, had to ease into in-house programming in part because the heavy summer rains pushing back the timeline for opening, said Laura Jaster, executive director of the Illinois Art Station.


“We had a lot of ideas about what would happen, but the reality is always different and more interesting than your ideas,” she said. “It just gave us time to really settle in into the space, kind of inhabit it a little bit before we get too too far into anything.”

Now the nonprofit is transitioning from having no facility and focusing solely on outreach into the community to bringing children into the studios and creative spaces.

Before they were limited by the materials they could transport, but now “we’re able to get messy and really get into the art and behind what the children want to make their art about,” Hatch said.

Four core programs will be offered in spring 2022 as three-week sessions based on age groups.

“Itsy” is for children ages 3-5 as early exploration. Their classes are held in IAS’s largest of the two studios, designed to let kids make a mess and even draw on the tables, thanks to the white board surfaces.

“Art After 3 p.m.” classes are for ages 6 to 12, which is about exposure to new ideas, new artists, new materials and new techniques, Jaster said.

The middle school program, “smARTs Lab,” is at the intersection of different disciplines and this spring kids will be focused on arts and engineering.

High school students can participate in “Arts in Action” classes wherein they address issues that matter to them through art. Hanging above the stairs in the station is one example of the high schoolers’ work: a globe created from plastic trash collected from a Bloomington park in partnership with the Ecology Action Center.

“In all of our classes really it’s about them creating something that they care about and that doesn’t look like everything else,” Jaster said. “Typically when they leave, nothing looks the same. Even though they’re all using the same base materials or base inspiration, they’re all doing something kind of radically different.”

The Art Station is also growing to include programming for homeschool children in the Bloomington-Normal community, offering a six-week program focused on creative expression and skill development.

Every Saturday drop-in hours are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when kids can come to create without specific direction or boundaries — “to explore and play through making,” Jaster said.

“At the end of the day we want people to just feel comfortable coming here and having fun and doing things, no matter where they’re from or what their background is,” she said. “Even if they’re not interested in art, I like to think that they’ll find something here that’s really cool and enjoyable.”

Because IAS’s mission is to reach as many children as possible and engage them in creation, the station also offers scholarships for classes and programs, and Jaster said they will continue to try to meet kids where they are through community partnerships.

https://www.myjournalcourier.com/news/article/Nonprofit-arts-group-hopes-to-change-lives-16720471.php

Dong Anker

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