All About ArtPlay

By Kristen Berthiaume

If you’ve ever wondered what was going on in the beautiful, old green house on 19th Street South near UAB, allow me to give you a sneak peek. It’s the home of ArtPlay, the education and outreach initiative of UAB’s Alys Stephens Performing Art Center. I recently had the opportunity to visit ArtPlay, along with several other moms (and with all our kids in tow), and the creative wheels have been turning ever since (Pinterest and I are about to get serious). From the moment you step through the gate on to the yellow brick road (Seriously! There’s a yellow brick road!), you know you’re not in Ordinary anymore. The ArtPlay house, built in1896 and beautifully renovated, has been outfitted with state-of-the-art music composition and recording equipment and dark, cozy practice spaces. During our visit, we moms bound our own paper books at a long art table brimming with supplies while the kids danced in a bright, roomy studio down the hall. Our instructor, Lillis Taylor, showed some of her gorgeous hand-sewn designs and convinced a few of us that we could learn to do them, too.

If you’ve been to productions at the ASC, you’ll be expecting the high quality of instruction at ArtPlay. What may surprise you is the variety of courses and experiences they offer: from music for babies to Hip Hop dance for older kids to a course for teens where they learn to create a smart phone app. Did I mention the Art and Craft of Hand Sewing for adults? If you’re looking for a creative outlet for your kids (or yourself!), there are many to be found. Something that was really important to me as a child psychologist and a parent was ArtPlay’s focus on using age-appropriate curriculum so that children develop an enjoyment of the art, be it ballet, drama, piano, or painting, without becoming overwhelmed by complicated technique. Research shows that this practice is how children learn best and makes them more likely to stick with the activity. It’s certainly what I want for my own kids’ earliest arts experiences.

Ready to check out ArtPlay’s offerings? You can find them here. But hurry! The Winter/Spring session begins next week! Also, watch for ArtPlay options in Birmingham Mommy’s summer camps list – coming soon!

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