Art classes ignite creativity

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The South Westminster Arts Group (SWAG) is providing free drop-in art classes for children ages 7-17 with the help of a grant from the Legacy Foundation. The classes are being offering the first and third Saturday of the month at the Rodeo Market Community Art Center in Westminster.

Designed to inspire young artists, the classes are taught by lead instructor Jim Lavallee and assistant instructor Christopher Pratt. Both are members of the Rodeo Art Gallery Artist Group. Lavallee's experience ranges from printmaking to painting and sculpture. Most recently his focus is creating jewelry out of recycled materials. He said the reason he got involved with the classes was simply to encourage creativity.

“I've been teaching art since the 1980's on and off,” Lavallee said. “So I hope that kids who come to the classes find enjoyment in the arts and find their creativity.”

This is Pratt's first time doing any kind of teaching. He said his passion for art stemmed from when he was a young boy. Since then he's dabbled in digital art and now focuses on more traditional art, like painting with oils. For the youth classes, Pratt said there is no strict plan of what will be taught each session, the ideas will evolve organically.

“As the children are learning so am I. It's a great learning experience for me,” he said. “It's fun to work kids and it's an opportunity for the kids to go home with something they created.”

Carol Cooper, SWAG co-chair, said educational art program is vital in teaching young people in the area that art isn't just for the wealthy, it is something to be enjoyed by all. Cooper, who is also an art teacher, sees the joy and passion art can induce every day in her classroom. Through this program, she hopes more children, who may not have access to art instruction, can feel the same positive effects from art.

“I think kids need a place to slow down and think outside of the box and have the opportunity to grow internally and be a creative citizen,” Cooper said. “Kids need to learn how to explore and experiment and also be inventive. So I'm so excited about this program because kids have a place to use their imaginations.”

Not only will the program ignite the creative spark in the children, but Copper said youth will also learn skill building processes and art skills like how to use a variety of materials and how to visually look at space.

The classes are 12:30-1:45 p.m. and will run through January 2014. For more information, visit www.southwestyartsgroup.com.