Claymation! Fashion! Digital Sound! An afterschool arts revival

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If you believe the children are our future, then you may soon agree -- contrary to rumors of its ongoing extiction -- that the future arts scene of San Francisco is actually looking bright.

While arts classes fall off the curriculum in public schools nationwide, a collaboration between the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department’s (SFRPD) Cultural Arts Division and its Community Services Division (which runs afterschool programs citywide) keeps the creative spark alive via the ongoing Arts Afterschool program.

Just a year and a half old, the Arts Afterschool program will host its first-ever live showcase, the Arts Afterschool Spring Gala at the Harvey Milk Center for the Arts on Sat/12. The gala will feature the artwork of 400 kids from virtually every neighborhood in San Francisco. The event showcases work from the program’s fall, winter and spring sessions.

Arts Afterschool is the brainchild of Jenny Rodgers, supervisor for the Cultural Arts Department of SFRPD.

“Jenny did it because it’s an opportunity for us to bring really, really quality instructors to the entire city, and reach kids that wont actually come into contact with that kind of work in their own schools right now, because there are so many cuts going on with arts programs in schools,” says Clove Galilee, program coordinator for the Cultural Arts Division of Recreation and Parks.

Lively paintings dapple the walls of the Harvey Milk Center and stretch up the stairwell. Sculptures of many shapes and colors dot the building. Downstairs in the gallery sit two computers, one with a looping slideshow of kids's works.

“The other part of this, which is really exciting, is a whole series of interviews,” says Galilee. “We actually went to each site and interviewed instructors teaching arts classes there, talked to the kids, and did these little three-minute videos of what kids were doing. And those are amazing. Amazing.”

If kids attending the event are inspired by the exhibitions, they can make artwork of their own at arts and crafts tables, as you (the adult you) peruse the room and munch on provided refreshments.
The late afternoon treats gala visitors to live performances in the ballroom, as dancers, musicians, thespians, filmmakers, fashionistas, hip-hoppers, and digital sound virtuosos take the stage.
   
As part of the live performance section, one-of-a-kind kid-designed fashions will strut across the runway and hip-hop dance groups from Ocean View and Ingleside will perform a choreographed routine. And youngsters from Bay View’s Joseph Lee Playground will perform African drumming and dance, which Galilee says is “pretty amazing.” “They created a whole little performance and it’s awfully cute,” she says. “We really try to be up with what kids really want to learn.”

While the main age group in the program is 7 to 12 years, teenaged participants designed digital sound performances.  “We’re excited to listen to their digital sound stuff,” says Galilee. “And kids from all over the city compiled claymation videos. They actually make the clay figures, and then they create the story. They narrate the story, they film it all, and they learn to edit it.”

How do these talented tykes come to master so many mediums? Professional instructors from across the arts were recruited and paid for by a three-year grant through the Department of Children, Youth and Families. “What’s unique about our program is [SFRPD] already has a thriving afterschool program that really helps parents and is very affordable,” says Galilee. “These kids go to these programs everyday after school and they get homework help, they learn how to cook, get to play games and spend time with highly qualified recreation leaders.”
Then, on Tuesdays and Thursdays the art specialists arrive.

“They expose the kids to all sorts of those things they may not come in contact with otherwise,” says Galilee. “And [Arts Afterschool] is actually free because the kids have already paid to be part of the regular afterschool program.”

Arts Afterschool Spring Gala
Sat/12, 1pm-4:30pm, free
Performances begin at 3pm
Harvey Milk Center for the Arts
50 Scott, SF
(415) 554-8742

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