In recent years, arts programs in schools have taken a hit as budgetary limits decrease available resources and curriculum funding. Studies show that arts education is beneficial to a child’s development. The arts help kids learn by encouraging creativity, improving academic performance and by developing motor skills, confidence, visual learning, decision making, focus and collaboration, among other areas.
But school isn’t the only place children can learn and develop from experiences in the arts. Fortunately, our region is rich with both arts programs for youth and venues that provide opportunities for exposure to theater, dance, music and visual arts.
Here are a few places to get your family started. Nowhere near exhaustive, this list is just a starting point. Let an appreciation for the arts take your family on a journey far beyond your child’s imagination.
Founded in 1933, Peterborough Players is a professional theater company set in an 18th-century barn. The Players produce seven main shows each summer season that run late June through September, and two Second Company children’s shows that run in July and August.
Second Company will stage “Cindy Reilly,” a modern, musical retelling of the beloved Cinderella story, Aug. 17-24. peterboroughplayers.org
Main Street Arts
The Main Street Arts mission is to be a catalyst for arts and community, fostering creative expression through artistic experi-ences, accessible to all. Located in Saxtons River, Vt., Main Street Arts brings theatrical performances, musical instruction and art gallery events to people of all ages. It offers classes and summer camp opportunities for youth as well.
The family favorite “Shrek” will hold auditions in September and be presented next spring. mainstreetarts.org
Redfern Arts Center
The Redfern Arts Center at Keene State College presents dynamic and multi-facet-ed arts experiences for the entire commu-nity. The new season kicks off Sept. 11 and features a wide variety of shows including dance, theater and musical performances. The Redfern’s community engagement program further promotes the arts by offering interactive experiences with the artists, such as class visits, workshops, artist residences and post-performance talks.
Don’t miss “Sammy and Le Grand Buffet,” a food-filled farce of juggling and clowning, in February. keene.edu/arts/redfern
Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center
The Mariposa Museum & World Culture Center brings visual arts experiences to Peterborough through hands-on exploration of artifacts and celebrates other cultures with exhibitions, performances and programs. In addition, Mariposa offers educational programs for school groups, teaching box resources for the classroom and a visiting artists program.
On display through Sept. 15 is “Hello, Dear Enemy! Picture Books for Peace and Humanity,” an exhibit the Mariposa calls its most interactive yet for young children with scenes straight out of children’s books. mariposamuseum.org
With a brand-new facility, MoCo Arts
is a family-centered nonprofit arts educa-tion organization that offers classes in dance, theater and the creative arts for ages 18 months to 18-plus years. MoCo stages numerous family-friendly performances by students, faculty and professionals each year in both its own Founder’s Theatre as well as stages such as Redfern Arts Center and The Colonial Theatre in Keene that are open to the public.
Coming up this November are produc-tions of “Red vs. Wolf” and “Disney’s The Lion King KIDS!” moco.org
River Gallery School of Art
Brattleboro’s art hub, River Gallery School brings the arts community together and offers programs for all ages. Its core faculty members are all professional working artists and teach a range of classes. Its summer art camps and school vacation camps offer the opportunity to study art in a real studio environment.
Fall classes for children and teens start in September. rivergalleryschool.org
The mission of Ashuelot Concerts of Keene includes removing the barriers that keep people from experiencing classical music, for even the youngest members of our community. The organization “promotes live classical music as a powerful force for good” by offering live concerts for children, school workshops and illustrated talks with classical musicians.
Its “Concerts for Cuties” series is specifi-cally designed for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, allowing them to move, dance and play to the live music. ashuelotconcerts.org
Project Shakespeare has been transform-ing students’ lives through theater education for 25 years through the exploration of the classic texts of William Shakespeare. Seasons run throughout the year and performance for the public include its annual holiday produc-tion of “A Christmas Carol.”
The summer season wraps in early August with performances of “The Tempest” and
“Twelfth Night,” as well as an Aug. 15 show of “King Lear” in Harrisville. projectshakespeare.wixsite.com
The Colonial Theatre
The Colonial Theatre of Keene is ardently invested in arts education for youth and pro-vides outreach and educational opportuni-ties for all ages. The Colonial strives to bring family-friendly programming to its stage every season and offers a student matinee series for schoolchildren from around the region.
Workshop programs also serve to supple-ment The Colonial’s mission of community engagement through the arts. Its upcoming 2019-2020 season includes “We Shall Over-come,” a musical tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr.; the comedic magic stylings of “Piff the Magic Dragon;” and the annual holiday favorite, “The Nutcracker.” thecolonial.org
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center
This museum presents exhibits of contem-porary art as well as cultural and educational events and children’s programs. Its annual LEGO contest and exhibit, domino-toppling event and Glasstastic exhibit of child-de-signed blown-glass creatures are just a few of the family-centric events that occur year-round at BMAC. A monthly collaboration with the Brattleboro Food Co-op combines food and art in a fun and interactive way. And for all ages of art enthusiasts, the offering of contemporary art exhibits and artist talks is amazing. Current exhibits run through Sept. 23 and the dominos topple this fall on Sept. 29. brattleboromuseum.org