ArtPlay House gives imagination a new home

Imagination has a new home. ArtPlay, the education and outreach initiative of UAB's Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, will begin hosting classes Jan. 18 in its new location at 1006 19th St. South.

Kimberly Kirklin and Heath Mixon have been a part of UAB’s Alys Stephens Center staff for a combined total of 11 years. After working at the beautiful ASC facility they are delighted to make the ArtPlay house their new home on campus.
ArtPlay will provide innovative arts-education programming in a collaborative and holistic environment that endeavors to educate, inspire and nurture creative growth and self-expression in children.

"We will offer classes, workshops, residencies and events in all areas of the arts — visual arts, drama, creative writing, private music lessons, recording arts and others," says Kimberly Kirklin, education and outreach director. "We want people to use these classes to help them explore and find their creative voices and become lifelong learners in the arts."

For a complete list of classes available from pre-Kindergarten to adult and to register, visit artplayasc.org. Register through Jan. 18 for winter and spring classes. The registration fee for UAB employees has been waived for the first-session classes.

ArtPlay — a cultural arts-education center for the Birmingham community — is the result of years of research and planning that began with the vision and generous donation from long-time Alys Stephens Center supporter Jane Stephens Comer.

Comer's life dream was to create a place that would give students the opportunity to encounter all genres of visual and performing arts in an innovative environment. Comer shared her ideas with Alys Stephens Center Board President Theresa Bruno and Vice President for Development Shirley Salloway Kahn.

"The Alys Stephens Center has been one of the highlights of my life, and the joy that the Kids' Club has given to me led us to this endeavor," Comer says. "It's very exciting and promises to be very original."

Comer's vision for this education program was to create a learning environment that was cross-collaborative and exposed children and young people to all genres of art.

"The curriculum for ArtPlay is extraordinarily innovative and is rooted and influenced by some of the most renowned arts-teaching programs in the country," Bruno says. "This program is a tremendous gift to our community, and it dramatically alters the landscape of arts education and opens up a world of creative learning opportunities for children and young people."

Classes offered this first semester include: Music in Motion, Creative Movement and Primary Ballet for ages ranging from 3 to 7; Intro to Musical Theatre, Ballet 1-3, Intro to Drawing & Painting and Theatre Workshop for ages ranging from 7 to 14; The Creative Word: Written and Spoken, Digital Recording/Studio 101 and the Art of Music Production from ages 12 to adult; Beginning and Intermediate Action Workshop for Adults, Telling the Tale: The Art of Storytelling and Visual Arts for adults and many others.

Most classes will consist of six to 10 participants to maximize the opportunity for individual attention.

Kirklin says the type of classes offered at ArtPlay will evolve.

"Because this is the first semester of operation, we will actively listen to comments and critiques from our participants and adjust classes accordingly," she says. "We'll add new classes as people express interest, and we will continue to shape ArtPlay programs each semester."

Another key ingredient at ArtPlay is the teaching artist staff.

Students and faculty from UAB's music department will be providing private music instruction, and future partnerships with the department of theatre and other College of Arts & Science departments also are planned. In addition, partnerships have been formed with teaching artists from the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Red Mountain Theatre Company, Birmingham Museum of Art and Alabama Ballet.

"They are a talented and dedicated group of artists who are part of this initiative because they believe in sharing their love of the arts with the community," Kirklin says. "Not only will they teach students the foundation of various art forms, but they will encourage the students to use these outlets to express their dreams and ideas."

Students will be encouraged to collaborate with fellow artists from different classes to create original works of art. For example, if a dance class wants to work with a music composition class, they can come together easily to create something unique.

"We do have a small stage at the ArtPlay House that our students can use," Kirklin says. "And for our drama camps or anything else we do that requires a larger performance facility, we'll have the ability to perform in one of the halls at the Alys Stephens Center." 

Fees are required to participate in ArtPlay classes, but need-based scholarships are available.
"We never want someone to not be able to take a class because they can't afford to pay the fees," Kirklin says. "There's an ongoing scholarship drive and opportunities to donate through the website at artplayasc.org. We have funds available for the winter and spring classes. People can call our office at 975-4769 and inquire about scholarship applications or donating to the scholarship fund."

Gift certificates also are available for purchase year round. And while ArtPlay's primary use is for educational programming, it also can be used as a venue to hold private or public special events. Call 975-4769 or e-mail artplay@uab.edu for more information.