Classes spark creativity in youth in downtown Grayling
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Construction can’t stop the creativity of kids in downtown Grayling.
The AuSable Artisan Village recently launched its first series of Creativity Center classes on the main level of the building.
The basement of the building is being renovated for youth art classes, which had an anticipated opening for July 1. Ailing volunteers has pushed the completion for the upgrades back.
“It put us behind,” said Terry Dickinson, the director for the AuSable Artisan Village. “We’re nowhere near being done, so we brought the classes up here.”
Ruth Hankins kicked off the summer classes with the youngsters, teaching them how to make paper-mache sculptures. Last week, Dickinson completed a four-day session on The Art of Illusion with students ranging from middle school to adults.
This week, Chris Sheldon, the art teacher from the Grayling Middle School, led a series on Little Critter Acrylics.
Sheldon said she appreciates the opportunity to complement the arts and crafts projects that students focus on in school.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for kids to go outside of a structured art class,” Sheldon said. “It gives us a little bit more freedom to experiment with things and you can use different media and different tools.”
The summer classes will conclude next week with drama lessons provided by Chad Patterson, the director of the Grayling-based Acting Up Theatre Company.
The art classes would not have been possible without a successful fundraising campaign held earlier this year.
Dickinson said AuSable Artisan Village initially approached Michigan State Housing Development Authority officials through Grayling’s Michigan Main Street program about the possibility of obtaining a grant to enhance the facade of the gallery. Through their discussions, it was discovered that the gallery could get more bang for their buck by utilizing unused space.
After raising over $60,000, including a $25,000 crowd-grant from Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan State Housing Development Authority, most of the improvements have been completed. The project labor has been primarily provided by volunteers to stretch the dollars a far as possible. Completed to date is new lighting in the gallery, a performance stage, new HVAC, attic insulation, and other capital improvements.
The lower level classroom is the final part of the project.
The AuSable Artisan Village made its first attempt at providing art classes for youth in 2013. Dickinson said the gallery was limited on what it could offer because it would disrupt the sales of art on the main floor of the building.
“The bills get paid because we sell the artwork,” Dickinson said.
In early spring volunteers Tina Foster and Kathy Ellison began organizing the summer enrichment class schedule.
Volunteers forged forward with the classes while the lower level remains under construction.
“In the next few days, we are expecting delivery of the wheel chair lift that will make the lower level Americans with Disabilities Act compliant,” Dickinson said. “The rest of the project is finish work and the installation of work stations, storage cabinets, and a restroom.”
The AuSable Artisan Village plans to offer a series of classes per year, some of which will coincide with the trimesters scheduled for Crawford AuSable School District students. The summer session classes with continue each year.
After the basement upgrades are completed, Dickinson said it would be easier for students to access art supplies, so that fun day art classes can be offered.
“They come in, grab a canvas, there’s the paint, and then they go at it,” Dickinson said.
Volunteers will work hand-in-hand with the Crawford County Library System, which offers a variety of arts and crafts programs, so that resources are being maximized to give youth a well-rounded education.
“We’re going coordinate with the library so we’re not doing classes on the same day of the week that they do, so it gives kids another option for an after school activity,” Dickinson said.
Families will only be charged a nominal fee to cover a portion of the cost for the classes and the teachers.
“That’s going to be our contribution to the community,” Dickinson said.
Eventually, Dickinson hopes to offer music lessons and guitar classes at the gallery.
Heather Bennett, whose daughter, Ashley Bennett, attended the art classes, said she appreciates having the classes offered close to home.
“She loves art and I think it gives her the ability to learn different art techniques within her community that she lives in,” Heather said. “It’s something that’s good to encourage the children to love art and to able to practice in their own community.”
Ashley said the lessons this week combined her love for painting and animals.
“I love art, so I’m very glad that we’re doing this,” she said.
Jocelyn Millikin enjoyed taking the classes along with getting outdoors for the season.
“We’ve been going camping, so that’s been a good part of my summer and the art has been a good part too,” Millikin said. “I really like the classes.”
Sheldon said she looks forward to having the basement renovations completed so that youth will have a place to call their own.
“I’m anxious to get the room ready downstairs,” Sheldon said. “That will be nice to have a facility that they really feel that they are in their own area.”