“Art Start really is just that — a start into art,” says Julia Proctor, a teacher’s assistant for AU’s early childhood visual arts programs. “It’s an introduction to all the things we do in this discipline here at Arts Umbrella.” The goal of the class is to expose kids to as many different artistic mediums as possible. Students are able to experience a wide range of art styles and materials, which can then inform their choice of classes when they get a bit older. “For example, if someone discovers they like to build, they might move into mixed media and sculpture down the road,” says Julia.

Every week, the class is focused on a different theme — sometimes broad themes like seasons or animals, other times students may be introduced to the work of an influential artist like Picasso or Monet. “Say we’re doing collage,” says instructor Kate Gomberg, “then we might look at Matisse. Or Louise Nevelson with assemblages. So we’d be looking at what she does and then doing it on a smaller scale.”

Kate has been an instructor at Arts Umbrella for over ten years and says that her main goal when teaching this class is to make sure the kids fall in love with art. That’s the primary objective.

But the class also has broader goals, too, not directly related to the art itself. “For some of the kids, [Art Start] is their very first time in a classroom setting. Some of them are in preschool, but some of them aren’t,” explains Kate. “So part of the class is also getting the kids comfortable in a group setting. Getting them listening… And getting them comfortable exploring the materials.”

The latest work of Kate’s springtime Art Start classes is on display now in the lobby at Arts Umbrella Granville Island as part of the Early Learning Visual Arts Exhibition for Expressions Festival. Come down and check it out! The artwork is hanging until May 25th.

And the materials are another important aspect of Art Start. Tempera paint, water colours, oil pastels, chalk pastels, paper, clay, glue, beads, wood — these are just some of the supplies students learn about and put to use in Art Start. “Something I hear from parents is that their kids don’t have the opportunity to use these materials at all at home,” says Julia.

As every parent knows, kids can get messy. As every artist knows, art can get messy. Art Start is one place where children have a chance to express themselves creatively and to really dig in and get their hands dirty. Literally!

“Most people don’t really have the place or space in their house to do that kind of thing at home,” Kate agrees. “They’re glad they get to come and do it here.”

When I stopped by to visit one of the Tuesday morning Art Start classes, the kids were working on pieces inspired by the book Mice by Rose Fyleman and illustrator Lois Ehlert, which Kate had read to them at the start of the class. It can be intimidating for some children to be sat down and simply told to make art. That’s why every day Kate and Julia come with a specific theme to orient the projects, which sometimes comes in the form of a story or picture book. “[The kids] are really inspired by pictures and stories,” says Julia. It provides just the right amount of structure.

Do you have a young Matisse or Nevelson or Ehlert in your life? Art Start is for children ages 3-5 years, and is available in our Fall, Winter, and Spring sessions. Register now or contact Student Services for more information!