GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — An organization in Grand Rapids has been working to keep the arts alive in a tight-knit Hispanic community for more than a decade.
The Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities program offers free, diverse and engaging programs for kids and adults at the Cook Arts Center and Cook Library Center, both located on Grandville Avenue SW.
“We have our arts studio, our music room and our pottery studio. Within those four studios, we have a bunch of different dance classes, visual arts, music classes that range anything from violin lessons to rock band classes. We try to run the whole gammit here and we do try and serve the entire family,” said Steffanie Rosalez, the Program Director at the Cook Arts Center.
Rosalez works closely with families in the Grandville Avenue neighborhood to provide access to the arts. The program also focuses on education and provides academic and homework help for kids.
“Our library center has a whole bunch of tools that are not easily accessible like computers, the Internet, books. There’s just a lack of access to arts in a lot of neighborhoods, specifically a lot of low-income neighborhoods,” Rosalez said.
The Grandville Avenue neighborhood is predominately Hispanic with a lot of rich culture.
“That’s a huge part of what this neighborhood is so we definitely reflect that in our programs. The culture of the community is very Hispanic so we offer a lot of classes so that people can explore the arts of that culture like Mexican folkloric dance classes and different types of pinata-making classes,” Rosalez told 24 Hour News 8.
Reyna is raising her two children, Michelle, 9, and Jordan, 7, in the neighborhood and believes the program is invaluable.
“As a parent, I think I’m very lucky to have this place because otherwise, I don’t know where we would go with my kids,” said Reyna.
Michelle and Jordan have been a part of the program for a number of years and have picked up a few different skills like piano and pottery.
Reyna believes it is more than just an outside-of-school program, but a place they can call home and feel safe.
“We need places like this. Otherwise, we are losing our kids, giving them chances to do other things like drugs, gangs when they can keep their energy doing something positive,” Reyna said.
Both the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center do not require families to pay a fee for the services. The people living in the neighborhood have access to the program for free. Officials with the program believe it is a stepping stone for the students.
“We have a handful of kids that are amazing and talented dancers, musicians, artists and then we have other students who have that appreciation for the arts and carry it on to do other things,” said Rosalez.
The program relies heavily on volunteers and donations. More information on how you can participate in the program can be found on the Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities website.