Youth Art Day Kicks off for Leland Kids!
Story and Photography by Sandra Chambers
The creative juices were flowing at the Leland Recreation Building when the Town of Leland held its first-ever Youth Art Day on February 19.
At hands-on art stations, kids were making pottery and crafting jewelry. Some were painting plein-air style and others were experiencing African drumming. Add face-painting for the little ones, free hot dogs and drinks and you’ve got a great day for local youth.
Teachers and volunteers from the award-winning DREAMS program of Wilmington provided the art activities and teachers for the event, and the local youth loved the opportunity to explore and create.
“It was a time for the local youth to come out and experience the many aspects of art from visual art to music,” says Niel Brooks, director of Parks, Recreation and Environmental Programs for the Town of Leland. “Our vision is that this will not just be a one-day event, but that it will be the kick-off for the development of a good, solid youth program here in the town of Leland. We’ve identified a need in this part of the county, especially for upper elementary and middle-schoolage students. This is a critical age point for helping youth make those crucial decisions about their future — whether they will choose a positive or a negative path.”
Over the past few months, Brooks, Town Manager Bill Farris and Councilman Herbert Barnes have been meeting to look at some potential youth programs for Leland.
“Today’s event was not only a day to celebrate the arts,” Brooks says, “but a time to get feedback from both students and parents to see what kinds of programs they might like to see in Leland.”
Throughout the day, participants were asked to fill out a survey — one for parents and one for youth — to indicate what type of programs they would like to see offered.
“We’re also going into the middle schools and high schools and possibly church youth groups to talk with teachers and students about what types of after-school programs and summer programs they would like to see,” says Farris. “We’re looking at youth programs that don’t compete with other things going on in the community.”
Farris explains that the town has looked at three successful youth program models for ideas, including DREAMS, which offers numerous programs in the visual and performing arts; Kids Making It, an industrial arts program in which kids learn basic tools and woodworking skills as well as entrepreneur skills; and a Durham-based program, DIGS, which offers a multi-generational community gardening project.
“We have the space,” says Barnes.
In July 2010, the Town of Leland purchased an 18,000-square-foot building in the Magnolia Greens community for use as a community center.
“The center probably will not be completed for another nine to 12 months, but not all programs will be based there,” Barnes explains. “We want to get some programs started as soon as possible — even by this summer. Even though the economy is down, we shouldn’t stop looking out for the children and youth of Leland. I’m really passionate about this. In the future, I don’t want to say ‘We should have’ but rather ‘We’re doing it.’”
Barnes also hopes that the people of Leland will step in to help the local youth.
“We have a lot of retired people who have expertise in many things,” stresses Barnes, “and our hope is that they will come in and volunteer their time to help make this vision happen.”
For more information or to volunteer, visit www.townofleland.com/ ParksandRec.html or call Niel Brooks at (910) 322-4818.