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E4C’s ArtStart: Creativity and Beyond

On the floor of the gymnasium at Bannerman School, seven children lay on brightly coloured fur mats painting ceramics. It’s a fun learning environment full of positive connections.

Shar Anderson’s ArtStart class, entitled “Listen, Think, Create and Play”, is typically taught with everyone, including the instructor, seated in a circle. Shar is one of 28 volunteers who instruct ArtStart’s after-school classes, ranging in visual art, drama, dance, and music. The class sizes are small, maxing out at 13 students, and volunteer instructors are paired together, to ensure the children get the individual attention they need.

Each semester has a new round of classes and each course has a core purpose built into it, such as how to deal with bullying, for example. “People associate art with learning a technique,” says Program Manager, Eva Schneider, “What we want is for the children to have a safe place to express themselves through art. When the participants get positive feedback from a trust-worthy adult and their peers, they gain confidence. They realize what its feels like to succeed.”

ArtStart began 11 years ago for families that did not have access to and could not afford these types of classes for their children. Schneider says, “Many of these families and kids face difficult circumstances. But when children get positive reinforcement, they improve in many other ways.”

Today, more than 100,000 Edmontonians are still struggling to meet their basic needs. 30% of those are children. (Edmonton Social Planning Council,

Through ArtStart last year, 92% of participants told us that they made at least one new friend in their classes. When a 9 year-old child was asked why she attends ArtStart, she says, “Because I wanted to learn more, I wanted to see my creativity.” The confidence is evident in her voice. She shares the multiple crafts she’s working on and lists the songs she’s planning on singing at her friend’s birthday. She concludes with, “I just want to say that I’ll enjoy ArtStart forever.”