Mount Rainier studio helps fill creative void for Prince George’s students -- Gazette.Net


This story was corrected 2:30 p.m., Oct. 8, 2013. An explanation appears at the bottom of the story.

What started as informal field trips for free art programs is growing into a multi-elementary school initiative: At School After School.

The after-school program shares the creative talents of a Mount Rainier art school with public schools across Prince George’s County.

Abigail Lafertte teaches English as a second language and sponsors the after-school Creative and Performing Arts Club at Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier.

She said she used to take club members to the Art Works Studio School to take part in the classes. The nonprofit art school regularly provides free art programs, which were just what the students needed, she said.

Barbara Johnson, founder of the art school, said she noticed a significant influx of students during a January 2012 open house and discussed opportunities with Lafertte.

From that discussion, the two women said, At School After School was born.

Since September 2012, studio teachers have provided art lessons at selected schools.

“We are dedicated to helping build the need for arts education in our schools,” Johnson said.

At School After School is run through fundraisers, grants and volunteers. It offers free weekly visual arts classes at Thomas Stone.

Lafertte said Johnson’s program has provided much-needed help to Thomas Stone’s after-school arts club, which has reached full capacity at around 100 students. During classes, which are held once or twice per week, the children split time between Lafertte’s lesson and one provided by Art Works Studio School teachers.

“Art Works has been a blessing,” Lafertte said.

At School After School supplements Thomas Stone’s club, but it adds a new, free after-school art program to the other schools, which have about 25 participants each.

“Our hope is that it will expand the students’ opportunities for arts education,” said Susan Holiday, principal at Gladys Noon Spellman.

Brenda T. Makle, the visual arts supervisor for county public schools, said elementary schools without a dedicated arts focus do not have full-time art teachers. She said Thomas Stone’s art teacher — shared with other elementary schools — offers lessons at least four times per year.

“I’m looking at the environment we’re in and trying to figure out a way to help the children out. It’s really about the kids,” Johnson said.

Miguel Gasca, 9, of Mount Rainier, a member of Lafertte’s club, said the program includes exciting activities, such as decorating shirts, not offered during school hours.

“You can do fun things you’ve never done before,” Miguel said.

Thomas Stone students colored and labeled blank maps Sept. 26 as part of a lesson helping them relate and identify with their communities.

Kiterra Scott, 11, of Capitol Heights said the program gives her an additional creative outlet.

“We do a lot more stuff here,” Kiterra said.

Correction: The program was not correctly identified and the program is free for only one school.