The Minnesota Community Education Association (MCEA) recently recognized Saint Peter Community and Family Education with a 2021 project award for the creation of sPARK Mobile Arts Studio.
This free art program was offered to PreK-6th grade students throughout the summer months. Community and Family Ed Director Tami Skinner explained the reasoning for the creation of the program; “Many children struggled emotionally last year due to the pandemic. We believed that a focus on socio-emotional learning through the arts would allow children to develop an awareness of their feelings and provide a way to share and express those feelings through art.”
April Malphurs, licensed art educator that led the program, incorporated contemporary and historical artists from various cultures and ethnicities. “The children expanded their worldview, learning that people all over the world are artists and are creating art today” according to Malphurs.
The sPARK program had six locations that included community parks, manufactured home parks, and apartment complex playgrounds.
The program was supported through a grant from Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council. The City of Saint Peter Recreation and Leisure Services department provided the park shelters and youth volunteers. Community educators, district liaisons, social workers and leaders at the local mosque distributed flyers and information to families. Skinner said, “Our goal was to eliminate economic and transportation barriers by providing a free program in all the areas where children lived.” All children 2-12 were welcome.
MCEA project awards are presented to outstanding projects that have exemplified the concept of Community Education. A project may be either a one-time event or an ongoing activity that is associated with a Community Education program. Projects are judged on cooperation and teamwork, use of resources, achievement and community impact.