A host of petite Picassos are showcasing their artistic flair at the Boys & Girls Club’s Fort Mill chapter, thanks to funding from a local donor.
Tega Cay resident Jim Harper of Harper Corporation in Charlotte and the owners of Chelsea and Savannah, a Fort Mill art studio, have teamed up with the Boys & Girls Club to provide area children – many from low-income households – with a creative outlet twice a week in the form of art classes taught by the studio team.
“Kids need more than just always a structural environment. They need to learn to think outside the box,” said Harper, a third-generation Harper Corporation executive.
Harper’s wife, Heather, agreed.
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“(The arts) not only enriches their lives, but it teaches creative thinking skills, which gives us more well-rounded citizens ready to enter the workforce,” she said.
Chelsea and Savannah – the moniker comes from its two owners’ backgrounds – Tracey Hartzog, of the Chelsea College of Arts in London and Rachel Ohls, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design – opened in Springfield Town Center last summer. Chelsea and Savannah teachers work with students at the Fort Mill Boys & Girls Club location at Springfield Elementary School on a variety of art-related topics – everything from drawing and painting to photography and fashion design.
Tony Ballard, a fourth-grader at Fort Mill Elementary, designed an outfit for “Project FUNway,” a knock-off of the TV show “Project Runway.”
“It’s really fun,” Tony said. “On my shirt I have polka dots.”
Zhyonna Henderson, a third-grader at Riverview Elementary showed off one of her paintings on display, but said photography is the part she enjoys most about the program.
The students have blossomed in the program and taken to their own artistic interests, Hartzog said.
“(The children) have a real distinctive vision of what they want to make,” she said. “Not everyone is great at drawing, but not all great artists are great at drawing.”
Hartzog said both she and Ohls come from a background in nonprofit work, so the partnership with the Boys & Girls Club was a natural.
“We really thought we were a great fit. We want to be a part of the community,” she said. “We want to be involved in the community, as well as being a business.”
Harper said he hopes the program will expand in the future to include the other Boys & Girls Clubs in York County.
Officials with the nonprofit are on board with the idea.
“Hopefully if we can twist (Harper’s) arm a little bit, we can reproduce this in other clubs,” said Sara Blancke, director of development and marketing. “For a lot of the kids, they don’t have a lot to be excited about.”
For Harper, his vision is for the STEM programs in schools – an initiative to enhance science, technology, engineering and math instruction – will expand to include the arts as well.
“Because without the arts, none of the other things exist,” he said.
Kelly Lessard: firstname.lastname@example.org, @KellyLessardFMT