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Arts Partnership Gives RPS 205 Students Confidence, Art Knowledge & Creative Outlet

students showing art work

Over the summer, the Rockford Area Arts Council launched a year-round arts enrichment partnership with RPS 205 and the Washington Park Community Center (WPCC).

What began as a vision to increase children’s access to arts programming in Rockford has led to more than 100 RPS 205 elementary, middle and high school students discovering the joy of tapping into their creativity and expressing themselves in new, artistic ways.


At ArtsPlace, students attended a six-week intensive program and learned from local visual artists Molly Carter and Isabel Hernandez and creative communicator Marcos Lara. Molly’s students explored nature, art and music while learning art techniques including watercolor, marbling processes and collage. Marcos guided students through a course on public speaking with an emphasis on comedic expression. Students’ confidence soared as they improved their storytelling abilities, tapped into their comedic side and learned how to engage a crowd. Isabel built a foundation of the basics of art; she taught young students about primary and secondary colors and led them through painting techniques using a variety of materials to build students’ creative confidence.

Studio Saturdays

On Studio Saturdays, Greg Yokley introduced students to the world of film and media production through photography, filmography, video editing and marketing. From filming and editing to set etiquette, students received a crash course on what happens in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

Happening now

The partnership between the Rockford Area Arts Council and Washington Park Community Center continues through the After School Arts Program, or ASAP! Visual artist Shaniqwa Porter and dance instructor Elizabeth Johnston have joined the programming rotation to invest in students at Washington Park. Students are building on the skills learned over the summer or learning about a new artistic medium.

Art instruction isn’t just about learning to create or present something beautiful or interesting. Access to art instruction and enrichment leads to empowered children in our community with increased confidence and positive outlets for self-expression. In just a matter of weeks, the students are developing new life skills and building self-esteem in ways that were previously unavailable.

It is a joy to watch kids, and even group leaders, move from “I don’t know how to draw!” or “I’m not speaking in front of people!” to eagerly awaiting to see what project they will be working on next. Students are engaged! Some even must be reminded multiple times that time is almost up and to start cleaning up. The students are finding their voices and are confidently stepping into healthy avenues of expression. There has always been impactful growth at Washington Park, and the Arts Council is excited to continue bringing quality and meaningful arts programs to students throughout the school year!

Click here to register a student for the After School Program at Washington Park Community Center and participate in art programs or call 815-987-1612.

Aria Childers

Aria Childers

Aria Childers has been a proud member of the Rockford community since 2015. With years of experience working in the non-profit world with an emphasis on community engagement, communications, and programming, she recently joined the Rockford Area Arts Council as the Program Coordinator. Aria enjoys staying active and spending time with her friends and family, especially her toddler son.

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