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ABC Arts aims its services in a new direction

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Local muralist Noel Marquez helps Roswell kids learn about their potential as artists while enjoying their creativity. ABC Arts seeks to help children develop their creative side. (Submitted Photo)

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Dietta Hitchcock and Leslie Andrews are taking ABC Arts Foundation in a new direction.

“We have been in existence as a 501(c)(3) foundation for three years now,” Hitchcock said. “We have presented arts experiences to kids outside of the classroom. We’ve been very successful as a grassroots entity providing some really great experiences for kids.”

Their original intention was to reach out to kids who might not normally get exposed to the arts.

“What we realized after analyzing the data from our participation,” Hitchcock said, “is that many of the kids who have been coming were the kids who were involved in classes at the museum, whose parents could afford it. Their parents could get them to the activities that we were providing for free.

“The kids that are our target market are the ones whose parents can’t get them to our programs, parents who can’t afford to pay for art classes. After this analysis we saw that we need to do an after school program.”

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Hitchcock said the school district is on board.

“We have permission from the district,” she said. “They’re excited about the proposition. We’re hoping that they will help us with bussing going home so that the kids can choose to participate in a number of different art programs. That way it won’t depend on parents’ financial considerations or whether parents can pick them up, it will be totally based on the kids’ interest.”

ABC will start off with a program they’ve been using.

“We’re hoping to start this year with a ukulele club that is kid-centric,” Hitchcock said. “The teacher that oversees the program will be questioning the kids about what they want to learn, how they want to learn it and then that teacher facilitates music through the kids’ interests. It won’t be like normal music lessons, it’ll be more like a club and the adult will be a facilitator.

“In lots of cities around the country there are ukulele groups because it’s a fun instrument and it’s easy to learn to make music with one.”

The ukulele club is just the beginning.

“If that pilot program works,” Hitchcock said, “we’ll branch out to visual arts, theater, chorus, anything the kids are interested in. We will provide the manpower and the materials at the schools during after school time.”

One of ABC’s concerns is that sixth graders could miss out.

“The sixth grade is important because we are not serving them as much as we could be,” Hitchcock said, “so it will be sixth, seventh and eighth graders. We want to offer a safe place for kids to gather after school that’s productive. Also, we want to create an outlet for kids who are not athletes or who don’t have other groups they belong to.”

Hitchcock said they’re being careful not to reinvent the wheel in this after-school program.

“Recently, I came across an great article from The Wallace Foundation,” she said. “They are involved in spreading information about the arts and how important they are to children in their education. They lined out the best practices for after-school arts programs, and I was so happy to read it because everything that they said were the best practices and the most successful were things we’d already thought about and planned for. I’m using it as a guideline to make sure that we’re staying on track and making a quality program.”

There are power transfer boxes on street corners all over downtown that are being painted by artists. The ABC kids participated in that program as one of the many public art projects they’ve done.

“We had two transfer boxes painted by kids,” Hitchcock said. “We had the ceramic project. We had the Santa Fe Opera come for two years, which was very successful for kids who came and we have the ukulele program.”

The new after-school program is going to cost ABC, so they’re working to raise funds.

“We are raising funds for after-school program materials and certified staffing,” Hitchcock said. “The staff has to be paid, not a whole lot because it’s a part-time gig, but still they must be certified teachers in accordance with district requirements.”

The upcoming fundraising event has a Spanish theme and promises to be delicious and fun.

“The theme for the evening is Tapas under the Stars,” Hitchcock said. “It’s an evening from Spain. Folks will be treated to several courses of Spanish style tapas food. It’ll be a family style selection of all kinds of delicious treats that are Spanish in origin.

“The Liberty is catering. We’ve received generous donations of steak and lamb. Most of the food will be delightful finger food. It’s not a taco-feed. It’s a unique experience. All of the entertainment will be local artists. We’ll have dance, singers and other performers. It’s $50 per ticket which includes dinner and entertainment. The bar is open so it’s an adult event. There will be classic Spanish sangria.”

As ABC is art-based and art-focused, they will be giving the artists who work with them during this event a chance to create new opportunities.

“It’s part of ABC’s mission to include local artists in everything we do,” Hitchcock said. “We treasure art so we want to support our local artists in all genres. We’ll have a table with all of the information about connecting with the artists who are there, so that they can possibly get other gigs.”

Hitchcock said she hopes to hear from a lot of people about this fundraiser.

“The public can contact us through our website abcroswell.org,” she said, “or call me at 575-637-8761.”

Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.