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As the area’s leading arts organization, you know that the Naples Art Association (NAA) recognizes – and promotes – the importance of arts education for all. That includes all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. And, while we have discussed how being creative has been proven to extend your life and the quality of it, this month is all about the children.
In recent years, we have all watched as school curricula in the United States has shifted heavily toward common core subjects including reading and math. But, where does that leave the arts? Some may view arts education as an extravagance, but years of research show that it is simply not true. Early childhood arts education is closely linked to almost everything that we as a country say that we desire for our children and request from our schools: academic success; social and emotional development; community engagement; and opportunity for all. Arts education is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.
And, while many children in our area are fortunate to come from affluent families who engage them in the arts with museum visits, art courses, acting lessons, and more from a young age – there are even more children in our area who aren’t exposed to the arts at all. In fact, in the past 20 years, children under the age of 18 years living in poverty has increased by 138 percent in Collier County, compared to an overall of 44 percent in the State of Florida, and over 60 percent of school-aged children in Collier County are on free or reduced lunches. The NAA helps bridge that gap that has left children behind. “At the Naples Art Association, we have seen first-hand that arts education enables children from a financially-challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences. And, it’s only with the support of our donors that we are able to provide this vital service for the children of our community,” said Aimee Schlehr, executive director and CEO of the Naples Art Association.
One such avenue that leads to that bridge is the NAA’s ARTScool. ARTScool is an exciting program that immerses local children – ages five to 14-years-old – in the arts throughout the summer months. Courses are intertwined with math, science, language, history, technology, art, and design from accredited art instructors. ARTScool students design and construct buildings; create kaleidoscopes; and build robots; and much, much more. With two class times daily – one in the morning from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and one in the afternoon from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. – this is the
perfect opportunity for a child to dip his or her toes in the art pool…or even dive right in! “So, how can I help?” (We are picturing you saying this aloud as you read). We have issued a challenge to all NAA supporters, donors, and volunteers. We want to raise the funds to provide tuition for 200 economically-disadvantaged students to attend ARTScool this summer. While that is a lofty goal, through the generosity of our donors, we are already halfway there with 100 spots funded. We invite you to visit https://shop.naplesart.org/donate and pledge to sponsor one child for a half day of ARTScool classes for a week for $125 or one child for a full day of ARTScool classes for a week for $250. You may also contact Elle Young, development manager, at Elle.Young@NaplesArt.org or 239.262.6517, ext. 107 to pledge your support.
Registration for ARTScool begins on March 1 and more information is available by visiting www.NaplesArt.org/Classes/ARTScool/.