The Community School of the Arts will open the first arts preschool in Arkansas in August.
The Preschool for the Creative Arts will open to children ages 3 to 5, who will learn through an arts-based curriculum taught by artist-teachers who have experience in early childhood education.
The curriculum will be taught in the mornings Monday through Friday during the nine-month school year. The Preschool for the Creative Arts will teach state preschool requirements through arts study and activities, the news release noted. The preschool will initially have room for 30-35 students.
“Words, numbers and concepts will be learned by engaging in dance and movement, painting and drawing, acting, singing, playing instruments and more. Children will be immersed into creative and artistic activities as they master the curriculum that is appropriate for their age,” the release said.
Afternoon extended arts care will be filled with additional arts activities including ballet, choir, Suzuki strings, art, instruments, theater and foreign language. Extended arts care is offered in the afternoons from August through May and all day in the summer.
“There has been a need for some time now for this type of preschool in our area. Children learn in such an amazing way when taught through a variety of art forms,” said Dr. Rosilee Russell, CSA executive director. “I am so excited to get started with this important program and watch the children learn and grow as they study with a host of experienced instructors. This program will dramatically affect early childhood education.”
Judy Riley was named as the director of the program. Riley has a master’s degree in music education from Wichita State University and has national certification in early childhood music. She is an elementary music teacher with Fort Smith Public Schools and has more than 40 years of teaching experience in preschool and elementary school.
“CSA’s Arts-Based Preschool will be a game-changer for our area. No Arkansas preschools, nor for states around, have this opportunity for children to learn the required content using music, visual art, dance, and theater to teach the skills,” said Dr. Rick Foti, CSA board chair.
The Preschool will officially open Aug. 22 but is now taking registrations. The program will be housed in the Stanley & Elizabeth Evans Preschool Center in the Central Presbyterian Church located at 2901 Rogers Ave.
CSA broke ground March 17, 2021, on a new facility near the U.S. Marshals Museum on Riverfront Drive in Fort Smith. The land for the new school, 11 acres north of the museum, was donated to the school by the Robbie Westphal family. Construction of the building is scheduled for summer 2023, Russell said. Though the school has reached its initial capital fundraising goal of $7.5 million, Russell said they still need to raise about $5 million for completion of the project.
The Center will house arts programs for young children through high school students as well as adults. The after-school Community Arts Connection programs will offer classes and lessons for up to 500 children and youth daily, the news release said. In addition to the afterschool programs, the Center will be home to the Institute for the Creative Arts which offers specialized programs for high school students in grades 9-12. The Institute will operate daily as students attend from regional school districts and will receive high school credits at their participating school.
The new 40,000-square-foot building will include high-tech classrooms, teaching studios, art galleries, recording studio, film and digital animation labs, dance studios, culinary labs, black box theater and a state-of-the-art 350 seat theater and performance hall.