The Bower Center for the Arts has created a new Homeschool Pilot Program which aims to offer fun and engaging art instruction for homeschooling communities every Monday in January.

For those working at the center, art is a vital part of education. It is a way of understanding the world and is a universal language spoken by all cultures. Even the earliest people living in caves were creating art.

“There was a need to communicate deeper thoughts and understanding and questions about the world that we have this need to communicate visually and you can trace the history of mankind through our artistic efforts,” said Karen Nuzzo, arts education and outreach coordinator for the Bower Center, said.

Nuzzo said Bedford County has a homeschooled population of 13% not being served yet at the center.

“That’s an entire segment that we don’t necessarily interact with so I thought we have got to figure out a way to bring them in and offer them services,” she said Monday. “I think for a lot of people the homeschooling population are dismissed. Homeschoolers are choosing a different way of educating their children and are moving it outside of the walls of a school, but they are still very vested in offering their children an enriching and an open educational experience.”

Two classes are held, one for children ages 8 to 12 and another for ages 12 to 16. Participants can study a variety of topics, including painting with watercolor, origami paper folding and pottery. One class costs $40 for four weeks.

In talking to parents who homeschool their children, Nuzzo said she found many have created “co-ops,” a group with several homeschooled students that meets to be educated together.

“A lot of them are focused on math and reading instruction but not as many offer art instruction,” she said. “So I thought we could fill in the blanks.”

Nuzzo said the pilot program is intended to test the waters and see what happens.

Perri Mason, a watercolor instructor for the program as well as a studio artist in the area, said the pilot aims to give homeschoolers more of a classroom experience while exposing them to different kinds of art.

In her watercolor class for middle school-aged students, she is teaching them the same basics she would teach in an adult watercoloring class.

“Any kid needs to be exposed to art because if creativity isn’t stimulated … I mean engineers, doctors, nurses, teachers, all kinds of professions, if your creativity is not established and you’re not open to seeing it or seeing out of the box, you’re not going to be able to problem-solve and art is just another way of looking at things,” she said.

As a Christmas gift to her eight-year-old granddaughter, Adabelle, Lauren Siehien paid for one of the origami classes at the Bower Center.

Siehien said Adabelle receives arts education at home but with three other younger siblings, it can be hard to always get Adabelle out of the house and in new environments with other children her own age.

“It’s been good for her to meet new friends and she couldn’t wait to do this again,” she said. “She made a samurai hat for every stuffed animal she has. I hope they continue to do this because I would continue to bring her.”

She agreed the arts are important for children in being able to express themselves and offering new environments for homeschooled children is a great way to have new experiences.

With 34 students signed up for the pilot, Mason said more children are being reached and she hopes the program continues for others to take advantage of.

Nuzzo said she was hoping to get 15 or 20 students to sign up, so when 34 showed up, it exceeded her expectations.

She said people have seemed pleased with the four-week classes instead of something longer like 8 or 10 weeks.

“They love the fact that their kids are getting exposed to art instruction where they couldn’t anywhere else,” she said.

Nuzzo said so many of the academic subjects are focused on having one final answer, but in her opinion, the wonderful thing about art is it can present a problem to children and there will be many different answers based on each child’s view.

“Bringing children into this art center and letting them see other people’s artwork and other people’s efforts is also educational,” she said.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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