Illinois Art Station to Expand Bloomington-Normal Programs for Spring
NORMAL – The Illinois Art Station is ready to welcome the children of Bloomington-Normal “home” where they can be messy and explore new means of expression through art.
“I’m so excited to have people come out and participate with us,” said Joey Hatch, Education Coordinator for the group. “Our goal is to make as much art with as many kids as possible, so it’s very exciting to have the opportunity to do that in our new building.”
The station, now in its first brick-and-mortar location at 101 E. Vernon Ave. at Normal, had a “slow opening” this fall, with some programs starting after the official inauguration in September. But this spring, educators are ready to go “all the way” with expanded programs housed in the new facility.
The nonprofit, which provides arts experiences for children and their families with mobile programs offered since 2018, had to embark on in-house programming in part because heavy summer rains pushed back the opening schedule. , said Laura Jaster, executive director of the Illinois Art Station.
“We had a lot of ideas of what would happen, but the reality is always different and more interesting than your ideas,” she said. “It just gave us time to really settle into the space, to inhabit it for a bit before we got too deep into anything.”
Now, the nonprofit is transitioning from having no facilities and focusing solely on community outreach to bringing kids into studios and creative spaces.
They used to be limited by the materials they could carry, but now “we’re able to get dirty and really get into the art and behind what the kids want to do with their art,” Hatch said.
Four basic programs will be offered in the spring of 2022 in the form of three-week sessions according to age groups.
“Itsy” is intended for children aged 3 to 5 as an early exploration. Their lessons take place in the larger of IAS’s two studios, designed to allow children to mess around and even draw on the tables, thanks to the whiteboard surfaces.
“Art After 3 pm” classes are for ages 6 to 12 and are about exposure to new ideas, new artists, new materials and new techniques, Jaster said.
The middle school program, smARTs Lab, is at the intersection of different disciplines and this spring the children will focus on arts and engineering.
Secondary students can participate in “Arts in Action” classes in which they address issues that matter to them through art. Suspended above the stairs of the station, an example of the work of the high school students: a globe created from plastic waste collected in a park in Bloomington in partnership with the Ecology Action Center.
“In all of our classes, it’s really about them creating something they care about that’s unlike anything else,” Jaster said. “Usually when they leave, nothing is the same. Even though they all use the same base materials or basic inspiration, they all do something drastically different.
The Art Station is also expanding to include programs for homeschooled children in the Bloomington-Normal community, offering a six-week program focused on creative expression and skill building.
Every Saturday, drop-in hours are available from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., when kids can come and create without specific direction or boundaries — “to explore and play through making,” Jaster said.
“At the end of the day, we want people to feel comfortable coming here and having fun and doing things, no matter where they’re from or what their background is,” she said. “Even if they’re not into art, I like to think they’ll find something really cool and enjoyable here.”
Because IAS’s mission is to reach as many children as possible and engage them in creation, the station also offers scholarships for classes and programs, and Jaster said they will continue to try to meet children where they are through community partnerships.
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