The St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre will be able to continue its long tradition of a free children’s program, thanks to the St. Thomas Kinsmen Club.

Executive Director Laura Woermke accepted the $3000 cheque on behalf of the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre (STEPAC) on Thursday, April 11 from a group of Kinsmen representatives. The donation is part of the Inspire a Student program, which is a yearly campaign to fund the Art Centre’s educational programming. About 2500 children visit STEPAC every year through the student program.

Photo by Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media

A typical day for students in the program involves a tour of the current exhibition and then a hands-on activity in which “the kids get to learn by doing,” says Laura. The day covers the elements and principles of design and teaches about local art and creativity, as well as the concept that there is no wrong answer. Program Director Sherri Howard works with the Thames Valley District School Board to organize the groups.

The Kinsmen’s donation is crucial for this program to continue to be available to every student. “The dollars they donate make sure that the materials for the hands-on portion of the campaign is paid for, so every child can do it for free,” Laura explains. The longstanding educational program has been supported by the Kinsmen in this way for eight years. The group has prioritized this program because they are passionate about helping children in our community.

Laura says that she has seen the role the Art Centre plays in young lives firsthand. She knows several students who have been through the program and gone on to schools like OCAD University. “You see them from very tiny, all the way up. And they do come back and let you know what they’re doing,” she says. She expects many more stories like these at the opening of the “Foundation: 50 Years” exhibition on April 13. The salon-style exhibit celebrates STEPAC’s fifty years as an organization and will be shown until August 2019.