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In this day in age the arts are disappearing from the common school curriculum, once children reach junior high, they often have to choose to be in an art class. For many people the arts are something believed to be gifted to a few and something that comes about naturally. The Wayne County Center for the Arts fights against both statements, working hard to inspire the surrounding area, spur creativity and dare to live outside the lines.
The Wayne County Center for the Arts has been present in the community for 40 years working to further individuals' art education. The center began in 1973 within the basement of the art museum on The College of Wooster's campus. By 1983 they had outgrown the basement and needed a building of their own. Thankfully, members of the community recognized the importance of the organization. One benefactor, the Rubbermaid Foundation, bought and renovated the old Walnut Street School building providing the center with a home all its own. Moving in late 1984, the Center for the Arts was able to offer more classes in a larger space.
Throughout the years the Wayne County Center for the Arts has fought to make their services open to as many people as possible, thus spreading the joy and healing powers the arts have to offer. In order to make the arts accessible to people regardless of age, social class or demographics, leaders at the center have addressed issues related to financial aid, class variety and transportation and logistics.
Aware that a family's financial situation may not allow for the enrollment of even one member, the Center for the Arts has improved their financial aid system. Originally, financial aid forms had to be filled out for every class taken. Through the generous donations of the Noble Foundation, the Center for the Arts is able to offer more financial aid opportunities, now allowing financial aid to be used in multiple classes within the same semester. The application process has also been made easier with a single application covering all the family members. This does not mean that all members have to enroll in a program, but it allows different members to do so in the future and saves the trouble of filling out multiple applications for the same family.
The performing and visual art classes offered by the Wayne County Center for the Arts provide a wide range of difficulty and duration. Depending on the time of year, there may be summer courses, or one time workshops for various aspects of the arts. Usually classes are grouped by skill level as well as age range, making certain that each participant's experience is appropriately tailored to their abilities.
Uncorked is one of the strictly adult programs that allows participants to challenge their views on what it means to be creative and their artistic abilities. These events are about two to two and a half hours long during which the participants create things such as clay fired leaf plates while enjoying a glass of wine. The Center for the Arts has found that adults participating in the Uncorked events have returned for another class 30 percent of the time. Patrons are coming away from the experience surprised by their abilities and eager to challenge themselves further.
Children's programs offered by the Center for the Arts have become more consistent in recent years, offering courses for each age group every semester. The center has focused on a progressive curriculum, building staff and core classes in such a way that the children are learning new techniques on a consistent basis. Under the new progressive curriculum some courses require a particular skill level which allows more advanced students to further their knowledge rather than remain at the same stage of development.
Recognizing that getting children to extracurricular activities can be an issue for busy parents the Wayne County Center for the Arts has started to take the classes out into the community. Currently the center sends teachers with loaded cars to the Salvation Army in order to brighten and expand the life experiences of those relying on the organization for assistance. One of the programs taken to the Salvation Army is a drum circle activity that promotes healthy family and group interactions. By having to listen to each part of the drum circle the participants learn that they have to listen to each other in order for the family unit to succeed.
Dayna Sears, executive director, doesn't believe this is enough community outreach and has spearheaded a campaign that will make the arts more mobile and accessible in the community. Similar to a bookmobile the Center for the Arts has begun to put together a van that will be able to haul equipment and supplies to various locations. With the addition of the van the center's off site activities will not be limited to the capacity of the teacher's vehicle.
Raising community aware of their presence and opportunities is being addressed through creative community events, such as Grinchmas and A Chrismtas Carol. A fun take on the popular children's books by Dr. Suess, Grinchmas saw the entire first floor of the Center for the Arts building transformed into Whooville, with an outlined village scene traveling up the stairwell that participants filled in. Instead of the traditional pictures with Santa Claus, the Grinch was present and available for photos. Children were also able to try their hand at creating clay ornaments. The coming production of A Christmas Carol will be unique to the Center for the Arts with a modified scene play and set. See our calendar of events for more details about the production. All the events are specialized to spread awareness in the community to the importance of the arts within our lives.
"We want to be a vehicle so anyone can make art part of their lives....accessibility is primary to what we do" says Lesley Williams, operations director at the Wayne County Center for the Arts. The center is thriving today because of the current leaders, patrons, community support and donations. The Center for the Arts is working hard to make art a more pronounced attribute in the community's life.
The Wayne County Center for the Arts is located at 237 South Walnut Street, Wooster. For more information about their programs visit www.wayneartscenter.org or call 330-264-2787.