KidsArts, officially known as The Jamaica Plain Multicultural After-school Arts Program, is a nonprofit organization operating in the Unitarian Universalist Church at 6 Eliot St. and has after-school and summer program for young artists.
The after-school program began in 1986 at the Jamaica Plain Firehouse Arts Center, where JP Licks is currently located, but the program was closed due to financial crisis. Within three weeks of the closure, a group of 30 parents mobilized to keep the after-school program open as a parent-managed cooperative. KidsArts was incorporated in 1995 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.
Maren Coniglione, executive director of KidsArts, has been working with the program since 2014 after working with several other arts organizations in Boston.
“The opportunity to work at KidsArts was compelling to me because it was similar to what I had already been doing in terms of community arts outreach, but I liked that we have choices available for the kids,” Coniglione said. “Before I worked in primarily visual arts, but here we have music and theater as well.”
The program has been growing since. In the 2011-2012 year, the program had 32 students enrolled. Now, there are 71 students enrolled, some that are siblings from the same family. Kids aged 5 and up can attend programming two, three, four, or five days a week.
“The kids should have a safe space to express themselves without any judgment,” Coniglione said. “They like to be themselves and try new things. The after-school program is interesting because the students have had a long day of school, and we’re trying to provide structure, but also have fun and allow students to express themselves.”
Students may make new friends at KidsArts as well because they come from 10 different Boston area schools or are homeschooled. While there are other after school programs that families can choose from, Coniglione says that KidsArts is special because of the staff and programming.
“The fact that we have teachers who are also artists make is a pretty special place,” Coniglione said. “The classes aren’t just run of the mill crafts and keeping kids busy. We have artists in their own right who are interested in teaching kids what they know and making it child-friendly. That makes it special for the families.”
Coniglione also said that at the end of nine-week sessions, there are showcases where the students are able to show what they’ve learned or created to their families. This year there will be a play on May 20.
According to Coniglione, this session students have been exploring the concept of “home.” They have welcomed a Native American educator that gave a talk about what their tribe’s home is like in Massachusetts, and students have been talking about what we can do for people who don’t have homes, and the idea of environmental sustainability.
According to Coniglione, classes are small at KidsArts: the program is licensed to have one adult for 13 kids, so if a class has more than 13 kids there would be two adults present. The summer program will be different than the after-school program because it will be an all-day program open 8-6, and families can enroll on a weekly basis. There will be field trips in the summer once a week to places like the Curtis Hall swimming pool, the pond and the Arboretum.
KidsArts will have an Open House on May 5, right before Wake up the Earth, and attendees will be able to make masks that can be worn for the parade. The event will be from 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
For more information, visit jpkidsarts.org.