The "Grand Prairie Arts Initiative” has provided students within the community the opportunity to attend summer and after school programs that focus on using art to improve their cognitive learning, social and communication skills. The program currently serves elementary and junior high age students in grades K thru 8 with structured curriculum designed to strengthen the classroom skills and tools that the student needs while learning and to transfer their improved tools to other areas in their personal and educational growth. The challenge to engage these populations cannot stop and start with the public classroom and cannot wait to be addressed when the student is in high school. Students in the targeted demographics to be served continue to have difficulty with academics and social problems when reaching high school. Instead of making the connections that education is a lifelong process, apathy and social "clicks" become more important to the student.
Raising the students own awareness and self-respect is another important goal to start the process of lifelong learning. Many of the students in the target population have no sense of belonging for often many reasons. Their academics may not allow them to participate in extracurricular activities if they desire for example. Raising their expectations for themselves in successful settings outside the classroom has been an accomplished goal for the program. Another goal has been to reinforce basic family values of respect and expectation of hard work.
The art faculty at the Arts Center of the Grand Prairie has experience in a wide variety of art mediums including ceramics, photography, general art, and painting. A partnership existing with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock as well as The Arkansas Art Center and the Arkansas Arts Council has provided quality professional teachers and artists to participate in this and other programs at the center. Communication with the public and private schools is well received and the educational community works well with the center to provide assistance in identifying students that will benefit from this program.
New funding and opportunities are underway.