Art League of Bonita Springs: More parents requesting financial aid this year for art programs

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During the day the Main Gallery at the Art League of Bonita Springs is filled with visitors studying artwork on the walls. In the evening much different visitors tiptoe into the gallery wearing ballet slippers and leotards, eager to learn new techniques and express themselves.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays the gallery is transformed into a dance studio where dancers ages 3 and up can study ballet, tap/jazz, modern, Broadway and other forms of dance.

For Diankeri Bernet, the dance classes at the Art League were a perfect fit for her 10-year-old daughter Lyrica Parker-Bernet.

“Many classes were about competition and that isn’t what we wanted to do,” Bernet said.

She chose to attend the classes at the Art League that focus on technique.

“The Art League promotes creative thinking,” said Jordan Smith, Director of Children’s Education at the Art League. “The classes incorporate art for creative learning.”

According to Smith the instructors focus on technique, but also creativity and expression through dance. Instructors will also incorporate visual arts into dance by studying artwork and creating dance movements, or taking students into the art studios to create props and sets for recitals.

“My daughter enjoys the ballet and the hip hop and takes the two types because she really gets to express herself,” Bernet said. “I think it really helps students to develop their grace and flexibility and especially at her age it helps her to feel more confident.”

Dance classes range from $32 to $41 per month with most students eligible for full or partial scholarships.

Based on Art League records, more than 70 percent of students enrolled in classes at the Art League receive some type of scholarship. Scholarships ranging from 10 to 100 percent of tuition cost are awarded on a sliding scale based on a family’s adjusted gross income. Other factors include the number of dependents in a family, home ownership, number of children enrolled in classes and whether a parent is single.

“These are difficult, challenging times and this year three times as many parents requested financial aid for their children,” said Susan Bridges, executive director of the Art League. “Some lost their jobs or took pay cuts to keep their jobs and the fact is they wanted to provide their children with our wonderful programs and needed our help. We work very closely with each family, carefully crafting every scholarship — choosing not to turn anyone in need away.”

More information on the many children’s classes, as well as adult programming, events and education is available by calling the Art League at 495-8989 or online at www.artcenterbonita.org.

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