SMART KIDS is a versatile and scalable youth engagement program hosted by The Bridge that uses art workshops to connect children with inspiring local artists; allowing children to actively engage with the creativity happening in their own community. Kids have unique opportunities to discover talents, interests, curiosities, problem solving and critical thinking skills in a comfortable and inspiring environment. With this program, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative furthers our mission of Bridging Diverse Communities Through the Arts by facilitating intergenerational connection between students and teachers and designing great, formational experiences for youth.
- Offer ongoing art-making workshops for kids, instructed by Charlottesville artists working in diverse mediums.
- Provide opportunities for artists to share their creative talents and instruct students in the creation of unique art projects. Each art instructor brings something new and fresh so students learn different critical thinking, creative exploration, and art-making techniques.
- Provide kids the opportunity to make meaningful connections to artists who live and work in their own community.
- Provide an inspiring space for kids to make art where students feel welcome to visit, engage and participate.
- Serve the local arts community by providing a paid opportunity for artists to engage youth and further develop a social practice.
“Art club has been one of my favorite clubs, and if you make mistakes you just keep on going.”
-3rd Grader Amy Paulson about smART KIDS
“I had a lot of fun in art club learning how to do new art things.”
-4th grader Jane about smART KIDS
“The bridge and their team of artists make each week a fun and exciting experience for the students. They were able to learn and explore a variety of art mediums that really sparked their creativity. We can’t wait to have them back next year!”
-Daisa Pascall, CLASS After School Program Director
“I can’t wait to show my mom! When can I take it home?”
-4th grader Zaniyah regarding a drizzle drip painting project
“I haven’t liked a school project all year. This is awesome!”
-5th grader regarding mural painting project
“When are we going to have the art show? Can my family come?”
-Proud 4th grader regarding our year end smART KIDS exhibition on June 7th.
Meet Our Teaching Artists
Researched Based Practice
While we have vast anecdotal evidence of the value and influence of the smART KIDS program, The Bridge proudly recognizes and aligns with the research affirming the critical impact the program has in terms of connecting with the specific needs of Charlottesville and supporting the holistic growth of children.
Charlottesville Cultural Plan: Goal 2 of the Charlottesville Cultural Plan proposes that, “Arts Education and Youth Development Ensure all Charlottesville-area children and youth have access to arts in their education, and all the community’s cultural resources.” The plan identifies that “youth from advantaged circumstances have more opportunities than others.” It goes on to state, “Arts and humanities education matters for the health of our community because of the intrinsic value of the arts but also because engagement with the arts and humanities have been shown to transform the ways in which students learn and experience their environments. Educational studies demonstrate correlations between arts activity among under-resourced youth and subsequent increased academic performance and civic engagement. However, even within the schools, arts and humanities programs do not reach all students.” Supplementary after-school programming fills this gap for underserved youth. Additionally, the Cultural Plan proposes an effort to “Explore ways to alleviate transportation barriers.” The smART KIDS program strongly aligns with the Charlottesville Cultural Plan by removing transportation and financial barriers to transformative exploratory art experiences.
Center for Arts Education: The arts keep kids in school. Dropout rates are causing serious academic and economic concerns for many communities. Numerous studies have found that arts education programs can help to reduce dropout rates, increase student engagement and raise educational attainment levels.
US Department of Justice: The arts raise aspirations for at-risk youth. Participation in arts programs decreases young people’s involvement in delinquent behavior and improves students’ attitudes about themselves and their future.
National Endowment for the Arts: children and teenagers who participated in arts education programs have shown more positive academic and social outcomes in comparison to students who did not participate in those programs.
Education Commission For The States: Arts education provides skills critical to 21st-century success. In a global economy that is driven by knowledge and ideas, arts education is a necessity. The best-paying jobs require workers with creativity and higher-order thinking and communication skills, and companies are increasingly looking for these qualities in the workers they recruit. In studying the arts, students hone their perceptual, analytic and interpretive skills while developing creative thinking, communications and problem-solving abilities.