Kid ’ s Discover Arts a hands-on-the-arts festival
Each spring , hundreds of children fill Wheeler Community Center Gymnasium to rediscover art .
By Kelly Barbazette
Kids Discover Arts , “ a hands-on-thearts festival ” that immerses children in arts education for a day , has welcomed between 250 and 300 children each year for the past 21 years . Young artists are introduced to virtually every medium of art at 20 different art workshops set up around the room .
“ It ’ s called Kids Discover Arts , but it ’ s also a day when art discovers kids ,” said Gilroy Recreation Supervisor Cathy Mireles , a co-founder of the event .
Mireles said if it weren ’ t for her team of volunteers , artists who return each year to give their time , Gilroy Foundation grant monies and the support of dozens of local businesses the event wouldn ’ t have continued .
“ It ’ s a really grassroots community supported event . That ’ s how we are able to offer it free to the children who attend the event ,” Mireles said .
Twenty-one years ago , waning arts education in public schools spurred Mireles and her staff to plan an art-related event . Inspired by a hands-on children ’ s art workshop in Sunnyvale , Mireles and her team worked to bring something similar to Gilroy .
The first event in 1990 welcomed 225 children and 325 the following year .
Mireles said families mark their calendar each year and look forward to it .
Eight of the 20 workshops at the event are stations focusing on fine arts , including watercolor , pastel and charcoal . Others are specific to a project or art medium . Three to five new workshops are featured each year . This year , those included bookbinding , papermaking and printmaking .
“( The children ) have been able to experience fine arts workshops taught by real artists and for many of them it gives them a taste for art down the road ,” Mireles said .
Mireles said more than half of the year is spent planning for the event from contacting the artists to buying art supplies and preparing each workshop for up to 300 budding artists .
The largest cost - $ 3,000 - is the supplies for the workshops . The rest of the budget pays for flyers that are mailed to Gilroy schools , decorations , food for volunteers , special art equipment and miscellaneous supplies , and the salary of Renee Harrigan , who works with Mireles to coordinate the event each year .
Mireles said Kids Discover Arts has always targeted Gilroy children who are in kindergarten through fifth grade because that is where art education often is lacking in public schools .
Post-event surveys show that families come from all over Gilroy and that the art workshop featuring recyclable materials is a favorite , Mireles said . The event has always been “ green ” from the beginning .
Mireles and Harrigan collect supplies from the Resource Area for Teachers , which has a warehouse filled with recyclable materials . Additionally , local businesses donate wood , wallpaper , fabric and other odds and ends .
“ It ’ s really fun to see what the kids will
do with some of the stuff ,” Mireles laughs .
Kevin Heath , formerly of Dennis Daniels Company , said the Gilroy company was inspired to help Kids Discover Arts two years ago . Dennis Daniels , a picture frame and photo album resale company , wanted to give back to the community in a way that is related to the arts .
“ Everyone I knew who had kids at one time or another had been to Kids Discover Arts . When I looked into the program a little bit more I saw what a benefit it is to the kids of Gilroy ,” said Heath , who is a Gilroy Arts and Culture Commissioner and on the Board of the Gilroy Arts Alliance .
While the city provides in-kind services for staff and the facility , Heath said he and Shannon Daniels Braden , president and owner of Dennis Daniels Company , decided to organize a fundraiser at Lizarran Tapas Restaurant in downtown Gilroy to help make up the shortfall .
Local businesses contributed items for a silent auction while local celebrities donated signed bottles of wine for guests to bid on as well . Lizarran donated services and a local interior designer decorated the space , Heath said .
The event , first held in December 2009 , brought in about $ 2,800 with about 100 people in attendance . Last year , the fundraiser drew 130 guests and nearly $ 4,000 .
Heath said Dennis Daniels will host a similar fundraiser for Kids Discover Arts this year .