The Creative Child: Local Children’s Art Classes Offer More Than a Pretty PictureOct 03, 2022 11:48AM ● By Ann Marie O'Phelan
Southwest Florida has a number of outlets for exposing children to the fine arts. Art classes are available to kids of all ages, from Naples to Cape Coral.
“Art education is linked to many things that we want for our children: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. Art education provides students an outlet for emotional troubles, as well, and helps them to deal with stress and difficult feelings,” explains Frank Verpoorten, the executive director and chief curator of Naples Art, which offers a variety of classes such as painting, drawing, mixed media, paper arts, clay, printmaking, and assembling 3D sculptures for children as young as 5.
Furthermore, Verpoorten explains, “Students who study art at a young age tend to have higher test scores and have more academic success later in life. Art education teaches students to observe and study the world more closely—skills that make up the bedrock of critical thinking. In turn, critical thinking and creative expression conjure up our better human attributes of compassion and tolerance.
“I appreciate our art education classrooms as places for both art instruction and simply for gathering,” adds Verpoorten, who is also interested in the creative process where the end product is not the principal focus.
The Cape Coral Art Center offers year-round classes and programming in the fine arts and crafts for all ages, including children and teens ages 8 to 17. Classes include acrylic painting, watercolor, oil painting, clay/raku, stone sculpture, silversmithing, jewelry, glass bead making, glass fusing, wire wrapping, stained glass, copper enameling, and more.
“Art can help children understand and give meaning to the world around them,” says Julie Gerhard, recreation program supervisor for the Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department. “Through the use of patterns, colors, and cause and effect, the act of making art has the ability to improve critical thinking and increase fine-motor skills, as well as build self-confidence.”
Susan Bridges, president of the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, welcomes kids ages 4 to 18 to their innovative youth education program, offered year-round. It includes visual arts classes in painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, glass, and mosaics. Students can also enjoy performing-arts classes such as the art of auditions, costume design, light and sound design, music production, acting techniques, and fully staged theater productions. Those who love to dance have a choice of ballet, tap, and jazz classes.
“Children are given the opportunity to connect, grow, and challenge themselves in a supportive environment with a dedicated staff of education professionals, art experts, and volunteers,” says Bridges. Since “arts for all” is an important concept at the Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs, classes are more affordable—thanks to discounts and scholarships.
Three Crafty Ladies on Sanibel has instructor-led workshops designed for children as young as 3 years old. “Many participants come back year after year to add to their collection of Sanibel-inspired crafts, which also make for souvenirs, and some can double as holiday gifts and ornaments,” says Tracie Lantz, managing partner.
The creations are tropical-themed, with lots of bright colors and sea-life designs such as shells, turtles, and starfish—all of which are what children love. Creations include plaster photo holders, painted seashells, seashell suncatchers, souvenir cards, ornament balls, bead bracelets and ankle bracelets, and more. Children ages 3 and above are welcome to participate, as they can easily accomplish many of the projects with adult assistance; however, some supplies may be adjusted for children under 7.
The Three Crafty Ladies’ Make-it-and-Take-it self-guided crafts are available by appointment from Monday through Friday 10 am-3 pm. Craft-friendly attire is recommended for all attendees—big or small. Adults and children alike can enjoy a memorable experience during family time or vacation time. Adults looking for more comprehensive classes can inquire about instructor-led workshops. All workshops are available by appointment.
The Alliance for the Arts in Fort Myers offers more than 200 art classes for all ages and abilities, such as painting, pastels, drawing, and performing arts. It also hosts special events that the young ones will enjoy, such as art markets, fairs, and exhibitions. The upcoming fall classes are listed on the Alliance’s website.
In downtown Fort Myers adults and children can check out Art Walk, held the first Friday of every month, from 6-10 pm. The Fort Myers River District showcases art through local galleries, exhibitions, and performances. The monthly event is free to the public.
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
Art can develop skills and more.
Finesse fine motor skills. Because children are working with tools such as pencils, crayons, and paintbrushes, they are using their hands and fingers and developing their fine-motor muscles.
Improve cognitive function. Art can help children learn and practice skills such as planning, following through, and cause-and-effect relationships with colors and techniques.
Increase math skills. Children learn the concepts of size, shape, making comparisons, counting, and spatial reasoning, which builds math skills.
Further language skills. As children discuss their process and artwork, they develop critical thinking and language skills.
Reduce stress. Creative outlets help children work through issues and reduce stress.
IF YOU GO
Alliance for the Arts
10091 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers
Downtown Fort Myers
Cape Coral Art Center
4533 Coronado Pkwy., Cape Coral
Centers for the Arts Bonita Springs
Performing Arts Center
10150 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs
Visual Arts Center
26100 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs
585 Park Street, Naples
Three Crafty Ladies, LLC
1628 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel