Photo courtesy of Katy Lederer

“I knew I was going to make a cat,” announces Alice, age five. “I wanted it to be a purple cat. With pink ears, white whiskers, and a big pink smile.”

Alice shared her purple cat mask during Arts Umbrella’s Expressions Festival 2016 in South Surrey. The annual festival is the largest showing of young artists in Metro Vancouver, allowing young people to take pride in their creative accomplishments and share that pride with family, friends, and the public.

For Alice, the delight of exhibiting her artwork, which she created in her Sculpture & Mixed Media class, shines through: “We are learning how to be artists,” she says.

Katy, Alice’s mom, is passionate about the arts, and has all three children enrolled at Arts Umbrella. Katy’s family has a long history in the arts. “My grandfather was an artist, and graphic design teacher in California,” explains Katy. “My dad’s specialty was Shakespeare, so I attended plays, museums, and operas.”

“I did drama all through school. I love drawing, painting, and jewellery making. Staying creative is key – it keeps things interesting and fun. It’s important to me that my kids experience the arts and have the opportunity that I was given.”

Like generations of her family, Alice has a natural artistic spirit. “She loves singing, dancing, art, drama – she loves it all,” says Katy. “She’s always drawing at home, doing something creative, and dancing her heart out. I wanted to help nurture and grow her artistic side.”

Katy says Alice has experienced some unexpected, positive benefits since taking art classes. “Alice has a strong character, is strong willed and usually gets frustrated easily, so is learning to express herself through the art. She gets lots of positive encouragement through the arts.”

Additionally, the young artist is learning to follow directions. “Having to follow directions and follow rules – it’s good for her,” says Katy. “It makes her go out of her comfort zone.”

Seeing the benefits of the arts extending beyond Katy’s expectations, she encourages parents to think outside-the-box. “Give arts a try. Letting the kids learn to express themselves is so valuable. They don’t just learn arts skills, they learn to develop confidence, focus, and follow directions.”

“There are so many things you learn in arts programs beyond creativity. This is stuff you can apply at school, and in the rest of your life.”