Tara Sprickerhoff photos Maria Becker (left), Danelle Mathewson, Weston Becker, Ava Lynn and Kiera Primeau show off some of the art pieces they’ve created over the past year as part of the Uptown Art group.

Uptown Art encourages creativity and expression

End of year art show held by Uptown Art students Dec. 13

Masks, paintings, and even Raku pottery were some of the many pieces of art on display at an art exhibit excellently arranged at the Child Development Centre on Dec. 13.

The exhibit was a chance for the artists — aged six to 16 — to display the pieces they’ve been working on at the Uptown Art program throughout the year.

“I’ve actually never done pottery before. It was a fun experience,” said Ava Boyd, 11, one of the artists.

The program runs from May until December, and is funded by a grant from the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society that distributes money from the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District.

The program is designed to make art accessible for children who cant access art due to financial constraints, who need extra help, or one-on-one support, said Anniki Egolf, a child and youth care family support worker with the Child Development Centre.

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The art group, which has about 10 students, meets once per week at the Central Cariboo Arts Centre.

“A lot of children are just more comfortable in smaller groups and are able to make connections,” said Shelley Neufeld, who runs the program with Egolf. “It’s just nice to connect to arts and it gives them a bit if independence because they can come on their own.”

For Maria Becker, 11, the program has opened doors to different styles of art.

“I really like it because I can express my creativity,” she said.

“It made me feel more confident about my art because I don’t like drawing that much — well, I love drawing, but not around other people.”

The art students are not the only ones gaining from the program. Lesley Lloyd and Simone Benjamin are among the teachers that come work with the students.

“I love doing it because even though I’ve been potting for years the kids always do something that maybe I might have tried but it wouldn’t work – it will work for a kid,” said Lloyd.

“They come up with new ways to do things.”

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For Benjamin, it’s about “going with the flow.”

“You come with an idea, you think they could do this, and then one kid starts up doing cat sculptures and then everyone is doing what the first kid is doing and then everything is out the window,” she said.

“It’s about being present with what is going on.”

In addition, they both said they get back as much as they give to the program.

“I love teaching kids because of their enthusiasm. They give back, they energize me with their ideas,” said Lloyd.

Egolf and Neufeld often recommend students attend the program from their case load at the Child Development Centre. They’ll also get recommendations from counsellors in the schools.

“I think it’s just important to give them the skills so they can express themselves,” said Benjamin. “Some kids might not be comfortable verbalizing so with your art you can always have that inner world inside of you that you can go into and that’s how you express yourself to the world.”

Students take field trips to different art studios through town, and they also can spend time working on their own program through the class. Different artists, like John Bos of Bos Glassworks have taught students everything from making glass jewelry to potted bowls.

In the future, if they receive funding again, both Egolf and Neufeld hope that they’ll be able to expand the program into other forms of art — music or other creative endeavors.

Still, for the students involved, the program has given them a new outlet for their creativity.

“Art has been an interest,” said Becker. “But I never would have thought of doing it like this before.”

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Ava Boyd and Maria Becker display a couple of their favourite art pieces at an end of year art show at the Child Development Centre on Dec. 13.

This clay mask was one of a number of fun and funky art pieces displayed around the transformed space during the Uptown Art Show on Dec. 13.

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