Young Artists Showcase Art Through Prodigy Youth Arts Program
by James Coulter
When he was much younger, Angelo Cecere, like most other teenagers, had a much more cynical view on life. Joining the Prodigy Youth Arts Program allowed his worldview to broaden by expanding his horizons through art.
Not only did the program allow him to get creative by learning about and experimenting with art, but it also taught him valuable life skills that have improved him as a person and turned him into the productive citizen that he is today.
Most of all, the program helped shift his worldview, changing him from a cynical to a more optimistic person who sees potential in his life and the lives of others, he said.
“It has taught me to never give up,” he said. “Throughout any difficulty, there is always opportunity. It also had me thinking, no matter [what], your future is somebody else’s past. The energy you put out is the energy you get back.”
Currently, he serves as a produce clerk at Publix. During his off time, he volunteers within his local community in an effort to give back. He especially enjoys being able to volunteer at Prodigy and help offer the children there the same opportunities he once had.
“I want them to see there is hope in the world,” he said. “No matter what the situation is, I want them to see how we can change their life. All these kids I work with have great potential, whether it is helping with homework or art, they have great potential, and I see that.”
Several dozen local children shared the art, both visual and performative, that they had been learning about and engaging in through an after-school art program during an art showcase on Thursday evening.
Hosted at Snively Elementary School in Winter Haven, the art showcase shared the artwork created by students through Prodigy, a local after school arts program for local children.
“Prodigy is a research-based prevention and diversion program for at-risk youth ages 5-18,” its website states. “Prodigy uses visual and performing arts as a way to help young people develop life skills such as communication, leadership, problem solving, anger management, career aspirations, and goal setting.”
While enjoying light refreshments, attendees that evening could peruse many of the art pieces created by the children through the program. Many of these art pieces were created to emulate the art styles of various famous artists, including Pablo Picasso, Monet, Vincent Van Gough, and Andy Warhol.
Aside from visual art, many of these young children also showcased their involvement through performative art with a musical performance. Nearly a dozen students dressed in decorative costumes took to the stage to dance along to the song “Jolly Holiday” from Disney’s “Mary Poppins.”
Following the performance, a small awards ceremony was hosted, conferring certificates to the students within the program and flowers to their parents. Also hosted that evening was a raffle drawing, offering several door prizes to attendees.
This evening’s event was the second arts showcase hosted by Prodigy, with the event showcasing everything that its students had learned since earlier that school year in August, said Polly Loeber, executive director.
“It was very successful,” she said. “We had a wonderful turnout. Family was here. Friends were here to support, as well as community members.”
Aside from teaching students about the arts, the program also helps teach them important life skills, thus offering them a more holistic learning experience than other similar arts program, she said.
“We want them to take away the idea that they can do anything that they want,” she said.
Each art class within the program is led by a professional artist who serves as an instructor as well as a mentor to the children involved. Kelly Vanbuskirk, one of the art instructors, enjoys being able to offer her experience, as it allows her to utilize her child psychology degree.
“I like the kids,” she said. “I like everything about them. I just love them…. [I love] helping them provide things and prevent them from doing things that they would do if they were not with us.”
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