New Hope News – Times Publishing
by Rachel Romano
Over 100 children from the Trenton, NJ area explored the arts this summer at Trenton’s three UrbanPromise summer camps thanks to a donation of four artist residencies from Bucks County Artists in Residence (Bucks AIR). The residencies included bookmaking with Gabrielle Kanter, an interactive folk music concert by David Fry, Capoeira martial arts and dance program with Leigh Roberston and a clay project taught by Jayne Puccio.
AIR artists worked with the campers on various days throughout the five-week camps. One of the goals of AIR has been to expose children to the arts by bringing professional visual, performing and literary artists to regional schools. Many of these are enhancement art programs for schools that already have strong art curriculums. Recently, the non-profit organization has been broadening its scope to include afterschool programs and summer camps in an effort to reach more children through its growing outreach program.
“What a gift to our kids to be exposed to the arts in a real and tangible way,” said UrbanPromise Trenton Board Member Alison Yearley. UrbanPromise started in Trenton in 2011 with its first summer camp and has since expanded to operating an afterschool program and two additional camp sites. UrbanPromise’s mission is to give Trenton’s children and young adults the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, spiritual growth and Christian leadership.
“We have donated several AIR projects in the Trenton schools over the last few years,” said Amy Winston, Bucks AIR’s Director of Community Outreach. “We reached out to UrbanPromise so that we may continue to reach this community through the summer months as well.”
Bucks AIR, which began in 1998, provides innovative arts programs for over 5,000 students each year. Some of these programs are paid for by the requesting organization such as a school’s PTO. Others are funded through the outreach program.
This past year, AIR donated 10 projects including mosaics, painted murals, music programs and other projects to underserved schools in Bucks and Mercer Counties.
“We want to fill in the gaps where there is limited or no art curriculum,” explained Elizabeth Napier, Bucks AIR board member. “We are trying to expand our reach so that more kids can be exposed to the arts.” To support its outreach program, Bucks AIR holds a yearly fundraiser and applies for grants. This helps AIR provide artists for organizations that cannot support their own art programs.
AIR is always exploring new ways to fund programs. Elizabeth said, “We are looking at other ways to get individuals, businesses and corporations to support us. We want to expand so we can offer more artists and more projects.
“This gives kids another way to tell their stories through art, dance and music. We have a lot of artists who like to go into the schools and work with children. Some of these kids have never had an art program. It gives them the opportunity to expand on a talent or discover a new talent.
“As we gain more support from the various communities in Bucks County, together we can continue to fill the voids and also preserve and share the artistic heritage of the Bucks Country region by placing our artists in these classrooms,” Elizabeth added.
Bucks AIR does not yet have a schedule of fall programs; however, Amy Winston said she is in the process of contacting school principals to set up donations for artists’ residences in several underserved schools. Many of the AIR artists have been part of the organization for years while others are relatively new, having approached AIR with a proposal for educational arts programming that they could offer or been invited by the AIR board to join.
AIR is always looking to enlarge its artist roster. For more information about fundraising and other Bucks AIR news, check out the revitalized AIR Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BucksAIR).
According to Elizabeth, it is a community resource for local and regional youth-oriented art, music, theater, literary events and exhibits. It also provides book recommendations and ideas for art projects.
PHOTO CAP: Leigh Robertson (back center) with her Capoeira martial arts and dance class.