RAAC summer programs provide creative outlet for youth

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

13640800_1382431821773066_4373105621584782864_oWhen I was young, I went to Brown Park and enjoyed slap hockey and making box lanyards. The opportunity to work with professional artists and to create alongside kids from all over the city would have been awesome, nothing against my experiences.

RAAC Camp, an arts camp for young creatives ages 5-13, was held again this year starting July 5 at Ellis School. This year RAAC Camp artists include: Marvin Hawkins (Hip Hop Dance), Brad Koloch (Choir, Rap, Guitar), Carroll ZuBolton and Jaylen Marks (Theater), Esteban Perez and Contessa Golden (Visual Art), Tracy Davis (Modern Dance) and Connie Kuntz (Video). On Thursday at 3 p.m., the campers will present a performance and art exhibit. The performance and exhibit is free and open to the public.

Our high school program, RAAC ArtsPlace is an arts apprenticeship program designed to teach essential job skills in the context of creating art: punctuality, responsibility, respect and initiative. Apprentices learn how to create and set goals; they identify obstacles to overcome or avoid; they develop strategies for achievement that positively impact their lives beyond the program. The program runs June 20-August 8 this year.

Over 1,200 youth have “graduated” from RAAC ArtsPlace during the programs life span. Team Lead Artists this year include: Dance, Meghan Baylor; Interdisciplinary Performance Arts, Penna Broman; Short Film, Kyle Owen and Toni Stratton; Visual Arts, Bruce McDonald; and Jefferson Street Bridge Mural, Adriana Villagomez. There are 68 youth from area high schools in the program. The lead artists also involve other artists to come and teach so that the youth get another perspective. We are so grateful to have partners like Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center and Rockford Dance Company for allowing us to provide authentic arts spaces for the apprentices.

The youth has the opportunity to share their work and process with each other during the rotating “Team of the Week,” presentation. Each apprentice shares what the process is for their given team. And then there are the performances and art show that will allow the apprentices to earn money for their work. The Visual Art Teams, including Mural, will have their work for sale Thursday, August 4, 6-9 p.m. at Mendelssohn; the Performing Arts Teams will perform Friday, August 5 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, August 6 at 2 p.m., tickets are $10; and Short Film Saturday, August 6 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, August 7, 3:30 p.m., tickets are $5, all at Riverfront Museum Park. Tickets are available at RAAC, 713 East State or at the door at each performance.

In addition to selling their work and learning the skills that go along with that, they learn how to give back to the community at large. Teams performed at Jeremiah Development’s “Party in the Park,” Alpine Kiwanis Brat Days, and will be returning to the RAAC Booth at Rockford City Market on Friday.

RAAC is so excited to be able to continue these programs that change lives!

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