FACT After-School Programs
In northern New Mexico’s poor rural communities, where many parents struggle just to pay the rent, hundreds of at-risk young people are nonetheless able to spend some quality after-school time each week painting, drawing, sculpting, or designing. That’s thanks to Fine Arts for Children and Teens Inc. (FACT), a Santa Fe-based organization that views the arts not as a luxury, but as an essential tool for helping underserved youth and young adults survive and thrive.
The organization provides an after-school ARTclub for children in some of the area’s poorest public schools. In addition, FACT offers classes for young people at the Santa Fe Indian School, a homeless program, and the county detention center.
“To say that the arts save lives sounds perhaps dramatic. But, over these last 20 years of working with children from very diverse circumstances, we’ve seen countless examples of young people who’ve really been able to discover who they were through their own artistic expression,” says Julia Bergen, FACT’s executive director.
In all of its programs, FACT employs a teaching methodology designed to support participants’ academic, personal, and artistic growth. Artist-mentors incorporate art history and language into their lessons to reinforce classroom learning. Teachers carefully demonstrate new techniques and materials to encourage students to take creative risks, which is “a first step in helping students to trust their own ideas and instincts and build confidence in who they are,” Bergen notes. Sessions also include time for critiques, which develop such life skills as honest communication, respect, and tolerance for others’ ideas.
FACT’s curriculum is formal and sequential, yet the sessions are also fun and playful, providing relief from the rigors and tedium of the school day.
“It’s a time for students to decompress and unwind and express what they’re feeling, which is so essential,” Bergen says. And, students aren’t the only beneficiaries, Bergen emphasizes. “Parents also need programs that don’t cost them anything—where they know their children are safe and are fed nutritious snacks and are involved in positive things that help stir their [children’s] confidence and capacity as seekers and learners.”
FACT art instructors are not only teachers, but they are also mentors. They are deeply and passionately committed to guiding youth through creative, engaging, and empowering artistic endeavors that help them discover and communicate where they come from, who they are, and how they understand the rapidly changing world in which they live. As a result, ARTclub helps our students to gain self-confidence in their artistic and academic abilities, to strengthen their creative and critical-thinking skills, and to realize their full potential.Bobbie J. Gutierrez Superintendent of Schools, Santa Fe, NM