By Melinda Childs
ArtStart Development Director
ArtStart has recently been hosting a different kind of opening reception for our last two exhibitions. After the traditional hors d’oeuvres and beverages we have been putting on an After Party-a little creative raucousness with music, dancing and conversation. Why? We want to attract a wider audience to the gallery, especially younger people.
We just held our second After Party last Saturday celebrating our summer exhibition, “Animal Dreams”. There was something for everyone: dancing (for all ages), a photo booth (for the younger set), a craft activity (for the young at heart), and a cash bar (for those of age).
The “Arty Party” also included a family friendly tour of the exhibition and an animated film to wind the event down. Our goal is for the energy and fun that filled the room to inspire more people of all ages to participate in the arts.
A recent survey of Rhinelander residents conducted by the University of Wisconsin Extension Office and the Young Professionals group cited a lack of activities for younger crowds as a shortcoming of the area. Most activity takes place in bars, is often expensive, or is geared towards an older crowd. ArtStart believes younger audiences, including kids, stand to benefit the most from more art and cultural activities.
We want folks to know that there is no age limit when it comes to enjoying and creating art. There is so much research that demonstrates that exposure to art and culture is a valuable enhancement to a child’s development. It can impact how they communicate and express themselves, and it is directly related to creative problem solving.
The same is true for young adults and teenagers–I remember well how music, film, and art provided a refuge for me during that time in my life. I learned that emotions can come out in song or dance or through a paintbrush, not only through tears and angry words. I also found that connecting with another person’s view of the world is so important when you are trying to articulate your own views. Even now as a young parent, I appreciate not just the impact the exposure to art is having on my kids but the space that is created for us to have these kinds of experiences together as a family.
I am very interested in the connections between creativity and cognitive development. A common education acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is morphing into STEAM (adding Art into the lineup!). I personally have witnessed these connections take place as a teenager while attending an Arts High School in Minnesota–yes, it was a little bit like the TV show, “Fame.” In addition to focusing on a specific art discipline, all academic subjects included art in the mix. For example, one physics lesson utilized a pirouette to illustrate torque and velocity. Art can teach you different ways of seeing and understanding our world. All of us can benefit from looking at things through a new lens.
My sincere hope is that all of us, whether we are art enthusiasts or not can appreciate the value art and culture offers to our community and to our children’s education. It goes deeper than what is hanging on the gallery wall; it helps us articulate what is in our mind and hearts.
We are fortunate to have organizations in our town that offer kids activities to stimulate young imaginations, including the public school district, Old School Arts and Learning Center, Northwoods School of Dance, individual music teachers, the YMCA and many others.
On August 15, Old School and ArtStart will host a family event, “Art & Animals: A festival of critters and creativity.” There will be a chance to walk and talk with the animals, participate in animal art activities, enjoy a dog agility demo and more! There will also be an art reception celebrating the artwork of students participating in the TGI ArtFridays kid’s art program this summer.
“Animal Dreams” at ArtStart is the perfect show to introduce young audiences to the visual arts. Please visit and bring the little ones in your life, Wednesdays 11-5, Thursdays 11-5, Fridays 1-7, and Saturday 11-5.
Melinda Childs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.