Every month, Creative Plains Foundation hosts a free art workshop called "Come In and Create" for children to spend an afternoon making art.
The nonprofit organization's bright, inviting location at 18 8th St. S. in downtown Fargo has everything children need to spark their creativity: crayons, clay, markers, paint ... Parents are often encouraged to join in the fun, too.
"They're all given the same tools. There is no judgment; there are no grades. It's all just creation," says Christine Jaeger, executive director and founder of Creative Plains Foundation. "Watching the bonding experience that happens between parents and their kids and seeing what develops is magical."
"Come In and Create" is only one of the many workshops hosted through Creative Plains Foundation, but this simple phrase is also a good summary of the organization's mission.
"Children learn through visualization, and art provides a great medium for them to express their experiences with the world," the Creative Plains Website states. "Although the importance of art education has been well documented, it tends to be the first department cut in school programs and not all kids have art supplies at home. Our purpose is to provide youth with greater access to art, art supplies and education to build upon those skills."
The foundation has provided children of all backgrounds greater access to the arts outside the classroom since October 2016.
Now, Jaeger and her team want to make a bigger impact for area youth.
In November, Creative Plains Foundation began taking applications for Art After School, an income-based arts education program for kids in grades 6-12.
Through Art After School - which runs once a week February to April 2018 - students will explore a range of visual art media, such as drawing, color theory, watercolor painting and more from professional teaching artists.
The program is specifically for children who are interested in art and come from families with an annual income of $50,000 or less, Jaeger says.
"It's wonderful to have a child come in and experience a watercolor painting class (for one day), but then they go home," Jaeger says. "We started this program to provide an in-depth experience for kids that would give them a solid foundation of art and the different ways you can create."
At the end of the program, students will share their work in a gallery exhibit for friends and family to attend, then take home art supplies to continue practicing.
Giving children art supplies and books to take home is a central tenet of the organization, as research shows this affects how children do in school, Jaeger says.
"One thing that keeps resurfacing is sustainability," she says. "What we're ultimately trying to do is engage our entire community - not just artists and art organizations - and drive home the fact that art matters and makes a difference."
With a primary background in product development, Jaeger has always considered herself a creative person. She loved art classes growing up, but like many children in the community, those opportunities were limited.
She and her family started Creative Plains Foundation as a way to pay it forward for kids who face similar challenges - particularly the Art After School program.
"To provide that experience for a child, even if it's just an hour, is phenomenal," Jaeger says. "I'm excited about this opportunity to empower kids through art."
Creative Plains Foundation is taking applications for Art After School until Jan. 10, 2018. Selected applicants will be notified via email in early February. For more information, visit creativeplains.org.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.