An after-school arts program aims to tap students' creative potential.
Arts education is vital for individuals and communities, but it isn’t always a funding priority. Enter Kaleidoscope, an after-school program that launched in January 2012 under the auspices of Scarborough Arts. Its mission: to connect kids in Scarborough’s priority neighbourhoods to music and art, using five years’ worth of funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
“The goal is to connect communities to artistic experiences,” says program coordinator Tamla Matthews-Morgan. “And those communities tend to be school communities.”
At each elementary school Kaleidoscope is involved with (there are five, so far—all in Scarborough), the organization brings in about five different artists over the course of five weeks. The artists work with students in grades 4 to 6, many of whom may not otherwise have access to art education. Each school group collaborates on a final piece of multimedia artwork.
Matthews-Morgan, a professional dancer, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in education, is responsible for hiring the artists. One of them is photographer Kat Rizza, whose relationship with Kaleidoscope began three years ago, when she was brought on to assist with a related project (Creative Mosaics) as a research assistant. Her role was to find out, from members of the surrounding community, which kinds of arts programs were in demand. Eventually, she transitioned into her current role as a Kaleidoscope artist-educator.
“I’ve seen all angles of this project,” Rizza explains. “I’ve seen it from its infancy, planning how it would be run, to seeing the artists actually facilitating the workshops with the kids.”
Both Rizza and Matthews-Morgan get their share of hands-on arts instruction with the students, so they see the transformative impact of the program firsthand. Matthews-Morgan recalls one boy who initially appeared serious and withdrawn, but eventually proved to be a superstar dancer. The boy’s class crowned him “Dance King,” and his teacher was stunned.
“He [became] a completely different child,” says Matthews-Morgan. “Now, maybe he was that child all along, but he didn’t have the opportunity to get out and shake a leg and have the class cheer him on. Those are what we call ‘Kaleidoscope moments.’”
“I love watching the kids be extremely creative,” says Rizza. “I just love the way they will take a small amount of instruction and completely just run with it and come up with things that you don’t really expect them to. They always impress me.”
Photos by Kat Rizza.