Students at Hulbert Public Schools Kate Fjeseth, left, and Gabby Fjeseth helped Shannon York, cultural specialist at the Cherokee Art Center, glaze the figurines from Tuesday’s workshop.

Classes hosted this week by the Cherokee Arts Center are giving local children an educational way to occupy their time during Spring Break.

For $20 a day or $80 for the whole week, young people can participate in a different crafting project each day. Monday’s attendees created mini-floral paintings, and on Tuesday, the kids got to glaze a mug or figurine. Wednesday will be tie-dye T-shirt day, and Thursday, students are making mixed-media collages. Friday will be a free day at crafting stations for participants.

Shannon York, cultural specialist at the Cherokee Arts Center, graduated from the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences and is teaching the Spring Break classes. York said she wanted to be an artist ever since she was old enough to hold a pencil.

“Childhood is a time with art where they don’t feel the need to ask for help,” York said. “They feel like they can do it, and they can. It’s good to let kids express themselves through art at a younger age so that they can do it when they are older. Art is communication – it’s just like a language, so it’s good to encourage it at a young age, because people who didn’t get it as a child don’t have it as an adult, and usually wish they did.”

York said that since many public schools are reducing art classes or cutting them altogether in the wake of the state budget crisis, programs like the ones offered at the Cherokee Arts Center are a good way to supplement a child’s education.

“It’s an affordable place for kids to meet each other and do things that they wouldn’t be able to do in school,” York said. “Most of the schools here only have art class once a week, so we’re trying to offer them to kids.”

Wayne Isaacs brought his daughter, Lauren Isaacs, to Tuesday’s class, and she attended the Monday class as well. Isaacs painted a bear figurine with Chicago Bears colors, while his daughter painted a wolf.

“She came yesterday with my wife and had a great time, so I told her I’d take off work and bring her,” Isaacs said. “We brought her aunt along so they could spend some time together, too.”

Isaacs said that since Lauren is an only child, programs like these offer her a way to meet and play with friends.

“You know, a lot of schools don’t have the art programs, so it gives them an opportunity to do that as well,” Isaacs said. “So I think it’s really good for them, rather than just sitting inside watching TV or playing video games all day. Plus a lot of times, parents like to take time off during the spring, so it gives me the chance to do something with my daughter that I might not otherwise be able to do.”

Mary Moore brought her daughter, Katie, and her friend, Quinn Mosteller, both students at Cherokee Elementary, to Tuesday’s program. Since both Mary and Katie like art, she tried to mix it into their Spring Break festivities. Monday, they went to the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Bentonville, Ark.

“We’re either going to come back here on Thursday, or we know someone who does the buffalo grass dolls, and we thought about maybe trying to visit her,” Moore said. “This program is great, though, because Katie is really into art; it helps to fill time, but it also helps her learn and grow, too.”

Moore said that when she was growing up, fine arts classes were part of the core curriculum, and today, programs like these can help make up for any losses.

“She takes piano classes, and we try to do things like this to fill in the gaps,” Moore said. “It’s important because they may end up becoming artists, or at least it can help them think outside the norm.”

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