NORRISTOWN, Pa (CBS) – A non-profit art community center in Norristown is bringing high-level art lessons to children and adults. Inside Community Arts Norristown, young people pay attention to every brush stroke, concentrating on their canvases, painting copies of master works of art.
“They’re really learning how to draw and paint and how to see, and actually the lessons that they’re learning is what someone would be starting in college,” art instructor Emily Hirtle said.
This is not a bad head start for 17-year-old Alicia Garcia, who aspires to study art in college.
“It’s hard, because I’m personally a perfectionist,” Garcia said. “But I think this gives me something to do that’s like, ‘OK, here’s a challenge. Try it.'”
Down the hall is the pottery room, where younger students are sculpting clay into their own master copies of a horse by English sculptor Henry Moore.
Community Arts Norristown founder and executive director Wendy Wolfinger Coleman loves to watch the kids learn, in part, because it reminds her of someone.
“It’s emotional for me,” she said.
Wendy’s daughter Gabrielle always loved art and was a talented painter. After a long battle with auto immune diseases, Gabrielle died in 2011 at the age of 20.
“Gabrielle was an amazing kid,” Wolfinger Coleman said. “She was very creative and always also very compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s family and friends created a scholarship fund that eventually blossomed into a haven for the arts for kids and adults. They rented and spruced up 4,500 square feet of space inside Grace Lutheran Church, offering classes from sewing to yoga to hip hop.
Wolfinger Coleman wants to keep classes affordable for the Norristown community. Many only cost $10 a session and need-based scholarships are available, instructor and administrator Tiffany Bellamy said.
“This summer there are a lot of opportunities art class, to sewing, to guitar, to piano, to dance class,” Bellamy said. “So anything you can think of under the arts umbrella, that’s pretty much here at Community Arts.”
Wolfinger Coleman works free for this fledgling non-profit. She is serving 130 kids and adults right now and has space for more, eager to keep these kids engaged and learning.
To find out more about Community Arts Norristown, go to http://communityartsnorristown.org.