After-school art class led to unexpected career path

After four years of providing local kids with free community programs at Arts Umbrella Surrey Centre, inspiring stories about young people finding bright, creative futures are beginning to emerge.

“Arts Umbrella pushed me to do something artsy,” says Jolene Orr, now 21 years old, who attended a free after-school program in 2013 and then trained in automotive painting – a career where “you have to be good with colours, hues, and blending.”

“I was blown away by the free of charge amazing art class,” says Jolene’s mom, Rosalyn, a Surrey resident. “Arts Umbrella showed Jolene she could do so much more.”

The benefits of the arts are sometimes intangible, which makes stories like Jolene’s all the more important. Math scores and reading levels are easy to quantify, but seeing the gains of increased self-confidence, expanded creativity, and new-found artistic expression require a keen eye.

Westminster Savings has supported Arts Umbrella Surrey Centre since it opened in September 2012 with the mission to reach vulnerable students with high-quality arts programming. The community facility is rare in that it is 100% donor funded. Everything from safe transportation (from elementary schools such as KB Woodward, Old Yale Road, Bridgeview, and Prince Charles) to the art supplies are covered through donor support.

“Through our partnership, hundreds of children have been able to express themselves, gain self-confidence, and develop skills that they will carry into adulthood, all in a safe and nurturing environment,” says Gavin Toy, Westminster Savings President and CEO. “The story of Jolene inspires us and is a tangible indication of how, together with our community partners, we are making our communities healthier and more inclusive places to live.”

About 72 students take classes at Arts Umbrella Surrey Centre each week as part of the Artful Afternoons free community program, exploring their creativity and growing critical thinking skills through Creative Drama, Theatre Arts, and Visual Arts classes.

“Arts Umbrella applauds Westminster Savings for supporting high-impact arts programs that make a difference in young lives, particularly in the lives of at-risk children,” says Paul Larocque, Arts Umbrella President and CEO. “Arts Umbrella Surrey Centre reaches vulnerable students because community visionaries like Westminster Savings and others have provided immense and continual support since we opened our doors in Surrey.”

About Westminster Savings Credit Union

At more than $3.2 billion in assets under management, over 400 employees, and 55,000 members, Westminster Savings is amongst the largest credit unions in Canada. Known for its customer and community focus, people oriented culture, and sound financial and operating practices, Westminster Savings provides a full range of retail, commercial, leasing and wealth management solutions to meet its customers’ evolving needs.

About Arts Umbrella

Art changes lives, and Arts Umbrella is where young artists ages 2-19 cultivate creativity through performing, visual, and media arts programs. More than 20,000 discover the magic each year – with 3 out of 5 students participating for little to no cost through free programs, bursaries, and scholarships. The non-profit organization has opened the doors for all kids to access the arts in Vancouver since 1979 and Surrey since 2012.

For more information

Cathryn Tucker
Manager, Corporate and Internal Communications
Westminster Savings

Eric Lowe
Manager, Marketing & Communications
Arts Umbrella
604-681-5268 x104

Students in the Westminster Savings Artful Afternoons program share their artwork with Westminster Savings and Arts Umbrella staff.