Montebello Recreation Program In Need of Art Classes
The city is accepting proposals from community members interested in teaching a class.
By Nancy Martinez, EGP Staff Writer
Over the last several years, longtime Montebello resident Liz Gonzalez has signed her now 13 year-old son up for just about every sport and class available through the city’s parks and recreation department.
She says she would like to sign him up for art classes, but they aren’t available.
Like many other parents, Gonzalez has turned to local city-run parks and recreation programs to help keep her son busy outside of school, and to get instruction in areas she would be hard-pressed to pay for privately.
Park programs, like many city libraries, are being called on to provide a wider range of programs to satisfy the diverse interests of area residents. While in most cities athletic programs are still the core of course offerings at local parks, more and more cities are offering art, music, crafts and even preschool programs.
Montebello, however, does not offer any painting or drawing classes and only recently began to offer classes in guitar and keyboarding. The only courses currently available to youth ages four to 17, outside of sports leagues, are swim lessons, martial arts, Zumba, yoga and dance.
Crystal Jaimez, the city’s community services coordinator, told EGP the recreation department simply does not have any instructors to teach art. She said the city’s programming depends on the availability of instructors, and so far Montebello has been unable to attract teachers willing to teach art during the department’s four-week rotating schedule of classes.
Montebello is “looking for anyone to come out and teach art” at its parks, Jaimez told EGP.
The Montebello Parks and Recreation Department selects its catalog of classes from proposals submitted by people interested in teaching, and who meet certain qualifications. She said the department is especially looking for proposals from people with a background or passion in the arts, who are willing to teach children ages five to 17. Flyers placed around the city to let residents know the city is hiring instructors have so far attracted instructors to teach a cooking class this fall, and the guitar and keyboard classes offered over the summer.
All Montebello asks is that the costs of classes be kept at a minimum in order for them to be accessible to the city’s low-income residents who might not otherwise be able to afford such courses, Jaimez said.
The role art plays in academic performance has been gaining more attention of late.
A recent report by the National Endowment for the Arts found that low-income children and teenagers who are exposed to arts learning perform better academically. The report said students who become involved in the arts are more engaged with local politics than their peers who are not regularly exposed.
Researches noticed a difference in grades, test scores, honors society membership, graduation rates, college enrollment and volunteering. The study also suggests that art helps close the achievement gap between at-risk youth and the general population.
For many people in low-income communities, however, access and cost are obstacles hard to overcome.
Montebello resident Rick Magaña says his seven-year old daughter will have to stick to arts and crafts activities at home until an art class that teaches young students technique is offered through the park’s department, which typically cost less than the private lessons or classes offered through art schools or private teachers.
Though school districts like Montebello Unified, which serves most of the city’s children, offer art classes to high school students, parents like Maria Carrillo think exposure needs to begin at a much younger age. She wishes the city would offer classes in art technique, including painting and drawing, rather than just crafty “kid stuff.”
“I would love to put my children in art classes if Montebello offered them,” she said.
Carrillo told EGP her four year-old daughter is interested in drawing and painting but the lack of art programming in Montebello forced her to look at the art classes offered in other cities and at private schools, but she says she found them too expensive.
Carrillo says she hopes the city’s recruitment effort is successful and instructors sign up to offer classes to Montebello’s younger residents.
“I don’t mind if I have to pay for these classes at the [Montebello] parks,” she said, noting she just can’t afford the “high prices they charge everywhere else.”
East Los Angeles College’s fine arts classes for children range from $50 to $65 for five lessons and a music school in Montebello which offers lessons that can reach $300 for five hours of class. On average, Montebello’s monthly classes for children and teens cost $35 or less. That’s a big savings to a family with more than one child and on a tight budget.
In nearby Monterey Park, residents can take cartoon drawing, sketching and painting courses that range from $45 to $144. However, Program Coordinator Alex Garcia told EGP those classes have not been filled in a year, though he could not say if the prices were the reason for the lack of enrollment.
Gonzalez told EGP the city of Montebello “needs classes that are affordable” and says it would be “awful if the city doesn’t do anything to bring art to the children.”
“We encourage them at a young age to create by buying them crayons and color pencils, but when they grow up they sometimes don’t have anywhere to continue learning.”
For more information about becoming an instructor, contact Crystal Jaimez at the city’s parks and recreation department at (323) 887-1200 ext. 540.
August 14, 2014 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.