After-school or weekend enrichment programs offer children the opportunity to discover new interests, develop new skills, hone existing talents, and learn valuable life lessons. San Antonio provides many opportunities for children of all ages and backgrounds to explore. The best part? Many of the city’s programs are free! In this four-week series, we will showcase activities designed to engage everyone from the preschool Picasso to the high-tech teen and every nature lover, sports enthusiast, and animal activist in-between. Read part one on STEM enrichment, part three on outdoor enrichment, and part four on volunteering.
Appreciating the Arts
From social media to standardized tests, gaming to global pandemics, our youth are bombarded with stimulation and subsequently, stress. Gone are the days when boredom was not a bad word, and imaginations were allowed to thrive and flourish. Now more than ever, our children need outlets for creative expression. The arts provide constructive and healthy ways for children to address their feelings while uncovering hidden talents and interests, and learning valuable skills that can help them navigate our ever-changing world.
The AM Project
As a high-school student, Louis Cardeanas was unfocused, preferring his art and drawing classes to anything math, science, or history could offer. And while Cardenas had what he describes as, “amazing mentors,” to help him stay on track, and channel his creativity, he knows not all kids are that lucky. That’s why the founder of the full-service creative agency, Blonde Creative launched The AM Project. This unique, adaptable, and progressive program has one mission: “To empower youth to explore their creativity through the use of digital art and music, while instilling values and skills they can use in school and throughout life.”
Since its inception in 2015, The AM Project has evolved from an after-school deejay program for grades K-12, to a digitally based art and music program. Students can attend classes virtually or in person at the McCullough studio, and at partner non-profits throughout the city.
In addition to providing a creative and educational outlet for youth, The AM Project provides participants with marketable skills. Upon completion of the DJ Program, students can join the group’s DJ Roster for party and event bookings. Not only does this allow them to share and hone their technical abilities, but it also teaches business, finance, and entrepreneurial skills, while building confidence and self-esteem.
“We are building stronger creative thinkers,” describes Cardenas. “We are empowering our youth with their voices.”
For more information on The AM Project visit theamproject.org.
What began in 1994 with 12 students from Brackenridge High School, SAY Sí is now an award-winning, nationally recognized, multidisciplinary, year-round program that serves more than 200 students from more than 70 San Antonio area schools.
“At first glance, SAY Sí may look like just an after-school program, but above all else, we are a creative community and support system for young artists in San Antonio,” says Stephen Garza-Guzman, Co-Executive Director. “Finding community and finding people who encourage you is what makes young people blossom.”
Although priority enrollment is given to youth from lower-income households or underserved areas, SAY Sí is open to all middle and high school students who want to explore the smorgasbord of digital arts, performing arts, and traditional disciplines offered in one of four, unique onsite studios. The tuition, materials, and supplies at SAY Sí are free. The hustle, however, is not.
“We do require that our students maintain a minimum of a C average in school and that they maintain a good attendance record,” says Garza-Guzman, adding that they must also have transportation to and from the downtown studio.
Expression and exploration of artistic talent are at the heart of what SAY Sí is all about, but the goal of the program is not necessarily to produce working artists. It is to teach creative skills that the students can take out into the world and any professional position.
“What industry leaders are looking for right now are collaborators and outside-the-box thinkers, and that is what we are teaching our young people,” describes Garza-Guzman. “By the time they leave the program, they are confident and consider themselves leaders.”
For more information on SAY Sí visit saysi.org.
Children’s Ballet of San Antonio (CBSA)
The famous activist Verna Meyers once said, “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” This quote comes to life at the hands of Vanessa Bessler, the award-winning director of the Children’s Ballet of San Antonio. Bessler welcomes all children to include a sundry mix of ethnicities and abilities, not excluding those with special needs into her program and allows them to shine in the spotlight and share the stage with nationally recognized dancers.
“The special needs children don’t diminish the quality of our productions; they make them more beautiful,” says Bessler.
Bessler opened the doors of the non-profit, professional-level dance company in 2015 to serve as a gateway for aspiring young artists interested in pursuing a career in professional dance or who want to enhance their artistic development. Her dancers attend and win elite competitions and are awarded scholarships to prestigious international schools. But the most important skills Bessler’s students receive are not measurable by competitions and awards. Kindness, compassion, respect, and inclusion are as much a part of the curriculum as plies and relevés.
“Our mission is to give our students more than the ability to dance, we believe we are preparing them for an extraordinary life,” explains Bessler. “We want them to excel at whatever they chose to do because they have received training that has established a strong work ethic based on discipline and values that transcend the studio and stage.”
For more information on Children’s Ballet of San Antonio, visit childrensballettofsanantonio.org.
More Resources for Arts Enrichment Activities
Beauty is where you find it . . . and there are plenty of places in San Antonio to look. These artistic opportunities throughout the city inspire children and encourage imagination.
Art meets nature in this unique space where the number one rule is “have fun!” Learn more at waldenpondart.com.
Green Spaces Alliance Photography Class
Say cheese! Shutterbugs ages 8–18 learn to engage with nature through a camera lens in the “Picture Your World” program. Learn more at greensatx.org/picture-your-world.
San Antonio Cultural Arts
Through the After School Arts Program (ASAP) youth learn the history and techniques of public art while documenting and preserving the heritage of San Antonio’s Westside. Learn more at sananto.org.
Woodlawn Theater Academy
Get a Leg Up on theatre training with Woodlawn Theatre’s “Leg Up” classes that train youngsters in acting, singing, dance, and more. Learn more at woodlawntheatre.org/youth-programs.
Charter Moms Chats
Watch Louis Cardenas, founder of The AM Project, and Jessica Beall, Marketing Assistant at SAY Sí, speak with Inga Cotton on Charter Moms Chats on August 16, 2022 at 4:00 PM Central live on Facebook and YouTube.
Louis Cardenas is a San Antonio native, a small business owner, and a supporter of local artists and charities. Louis honed his artistic skills while attending San Antonio College and landed his first job in publishing. After six years in publishing, a start-up communications company in Austin recruited him. During the dot-com years, Louis, along with his colleagues, was credited with taking the company public.
In early 2001, Louis took a risk and opened a creative/multi-media firm, Blonde Creative. Since its inception, Blonde Creative, which consists of a great group of creatives, has become an award-winning agency with clients ranging from small start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
As the owner of a small design group, Louis is an active member in the advertising industry, plus he has served on the board of the San Antonio Advertising Federation, and was President of the organization in 2008. Louis is also an active board member of TX Reads and a past board member of SA Youth and Alamo Colleges Foundation, and in 2015 he founded a non-profit, The AM Project: A Digital Arts and Music Program. Louis has expanded his creative passion with a mission to give youth in the community access to inventive ways to express themselves creatively with art and music. His vision is to nurture the artist in our community’s youth while instilling values and skills for school and life. Louis enjoys witnessing the confidence and pride of his students as they advance their skills in the arts and grow as an artist. Louis enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters.
Jessica Beall is SAY Sí’s Marketing Assistant. She is a new member of the SAY Sí team, but she is also an alumna of the organization: she graduated in 2016 with their Visual Arts (VA) program. After high school, she earned a BFA in Graphic Design at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW). She is very grateful to go back to where she learned so much about herself and the world of the arts
Read Our Four-Part Series on Enrichment Activities
- “STEM Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 9, 2022
- This post, about arts enrichment activities
- “Outdoor Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 23, 2022
- “Volunteering Enrichment Programs for San Antonio Kids,” Bonny Osterhage, San Antonio Charter Moms, August 30, 2022
Read More About Arts Enrichment
- “Creative Thinking with the AM Project: Load, Play, and Turn It Up,” Louis Cardenas, San Antonio Charter Moms, July 26, 2022
- “Dance Away Summer Blues,” Vanessa Bessler, San Antonio Charter Moms
- “Film Studies,” Nathan Cone, San Antonio Charter Moms
- “Basquiat Art Project: Make a Portrait in the Style of Jean-Michel Basquiat,” Katie Mallette, San Antonio Charter Moms
- “’Explore Opera!’ with OPERA San Antonio,” Madeline Elizondo, San Antonio Charter Moms
- “Nature Box from Walden Pond,” Bekah McNeel, San Antonio Charter Moms