Quincy Art Center fills classroom gaps for budding Picassos

A local non-profit is filling in the educational gaps left behind by Illinois budget cuts.

A local non-profit is filling in the educational gaps left behind by Illinois budget cuts.

Almost ten years ago, the state cut funding for art education. Click here to learn more about those cuts from KHQA This Morning. Since then the Quincy Art Center and volunteers have stepped forward bringing the basics back to class.

Patricia Mahoney-Kuhn is a mom to three boys, but she's spreading her love of art to kids all over Quincy. She's one of several volunteer teachers filling educational gaps for students as a part of the Quincy Art Center's SmART Kids Art Mentor Program.

"You get to watch them bloom with their creativity and their learning habits, their focus, their attention to detail," Kuhn said. "It's so rewarding to volunteer in a program where the kids are so appreciative of you coming into the classroom and giving your time to help them." Click here to hear from Kuhn on KHQA This Morning.

"Kids learn concepts like color theory, shapes and depth," said Jennifer Teter, Director of Education at the Quincy Art Center. "They're also learning things like 2-D and 3-D art."

Click here to learn more about the art basics taught in the classroom.

When art was cut out of elementary school classrooms, basic art education like primary and secondary colors as well as the color wheel went out the window. But not anymore. Now art is a regular part of school, brought in by volunteer mentors like these. The Art Center staff creates lesson plans to meet official Illinois learning standards.

While kids are having fun, they're also preparing for arts questions that will appear on standardized tests.

"I like painting a lot because it's fun," Aquinas Lasnoski, art student said.

Click here to hear from more students involved in the program.

"I like doing hands on projects like clay. But a lot of times you have to watch someone doing it to learn it," Student Haley Dotson said.

Classes are also invited to tour the Art Center once a year as part of the program. Click here to see one of the activities during a recent tour from KHQA This Morning.

"It's really about giving them that experience that they may not be getting in the classroom," Teter said. "They are coming into the gallery and feeling them in real space."

These kids are learning the basics now - which will be the building blocks to new skills and possible careers later on.

"Once they have the fundamentals, they just bloom and blossom and you watch it happen," said Kuhn. "From my own children, I have a son who is in aerospace engineering but where did he start? With clay and Legos. And it doesn't matter where you take it, marketing advertising or music, it doesn't matter what your field is, there's art involved."

So far the Quincy Art Center has brought its mentor program to all Quincy elementary schools and one parochial school, helping students find success in and out of the classroom.

The Quincy Art Center's Art mentor program is completely funded by grants, personal donations and fund raising.

Some of the donors include the Sammy Fund, Tracy Foundation, Marion Gardner Jackson Charitable Trust, Quincy Public Schools Foundation, several service clubs and individual donors. Other funding sources include proceeds from the Midsummer Arts Faire and other fund raising efforts at the Quincy Arts Center.