FREEPORT, ILLINOIS — Freeport Art Museum (FAM) is pleased to announce it has recently received a Collective Impact grant award through the United Way of Northwest Illinois in support of its smArt After School program. smArt began as a collaborative project between the museum and the Freeport/Stephenson county Boys and Girls Club designed to address the gaps in access to quality art education and cultural enrichment opportunities. For the last three years the program has provided a multi-disciplinary curriculum led by professional artists in the areas of visual art, dance, theater and literary arts to over 130 youth enrolled in the after school program at the Club.
The generous support of the Collective Impact grant allows FAM to more than double the reach of the program by extending it to include youth enrolled in the YMCA’s School Aged Child Care after school program in Freeport. Already underway for the fall semester, smArt integrates dynamic visual and performing arts curricula in ways that reinforce important learning goals. For example, during last year’s program FAM led a tripod painting project that incorporates the earth science curriculum. Students created beautiful, abstract paintings by utilizing the Earth’s natural rotation. This project provided a visual, hands-on way to learn about science while at the same time provided an important entry point for youth who have had minimal exposure to creating art.
“We are thrilled to both continue the valuable work we have been doing with the Boys and Girls Club and greatly expand the reach of this important program to the YMCA”, says Jessica Modica, Executive Director for the Freeport Art Museum. “Several recent studies have shown a direct correlation between arts programming and increased overall academic performance, which greatly speaks to our mission to advance art education.”
The Collective Impact grant model stems from the United Way’s support of programs and projects that utilize cross-sector coordination to address community needs. By partnering with both the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club, the museum is able to enhance the successes both organizations have built in their after school programs. “As United Way continues its focus on education and academic success for all students, we look forward to seeing the outcomes that the smArt program will produce in support of educational performance for the participating students.”
smArt is an outreach program that reaches youth aged 7-13 and is taught at a number of locations across the community including four elementary schools, the Boys and Girls Club, Westview Apartments and two community centers. The majority of youth impacted by the program come from low-income/traditionally underserved neighborhoods. “There are no fees to attend our program, so having organizations like the Art Museum
willing to partner with us to offer programming to our students is critical to our success” said YMCA Executive Director of Youth Development, Stephanie Diehl. “It is through these partnerships that we are able to offer a well-rounded program.”