Story by Marianne Salza
Art Resource Collaborative for Kids (ARCK) Boston has been partnering with Boston Public Schools (BPS) to integrate art education programs into academics for 12 years. Beacon Hill resident, Sara Demeter, founded the non-profit organization to encourage diversity through art; and the framework that she developed has been amplifying the voices of students.
“It is a unique program,” said Demeter, mother of three. “This is my purpose. This is my passion.”
Demeter was shocked by the limited art classes offered when her first child entered kindergarten at a Boston Public School over a decade ago. It reminded Demeter of her harsh childhood in the Jordan, where education did not include art.
“Public education is lacking globally. There is no equality, and there is no equity,” Demeter observed. “If we can appreciate and understand history through art and culture, we will be at peace together, and be able to communicate with each other.”
Creating art was Demeter’s escape and means of healing while growing up in the Middle East. She believes in the importance of students’ social/emotional well-being, and is an advocate for marginalized youth. Many of the students that ARCK works with are migrant, English language learners, who have experienced trauma.
“It’s an outlet for children to express themselves. It’s a safe place for children,” affirmed Demeter. “You see a lot of students fall through the cracks if their communities and schools are not supportive.”
ARCK hires and trains art instructors to work alongside classroom teachers in incorporating the ARCK foundation into science, literacy, and mathematic lessons.
“We want to build the next generation to be adaptable, collaborative, responsible, and kind,” explained Demeter. “If every educator adopts the tools to ignite creativity, cultivate joy, and co-design project-based learning with their students, every student will be engaged in learning.”
ARCK teachers visit kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms once a week for the entire academic year. Art Resource Collaborative for Kids currently works with six Boston Public Schools, and Demeter hopes to offer the program to high schools soon.
“Teachers have observed how it transformed their lives,” Demeter revealed. “By the end of the year, their social/emotional awareness has increased, and they are more responsible in the classroom. Children are making academic connections.”
Art Resource Collaborative for Kids offered remote learning during the pandemic, when Demeter noticed that many students were lonely.
“There is so much work that we have to do,” Demeter insisted. “There is a lasting impact.”
Demeter’s goal is to continue training more educators, and encouraging them to join the ARCK team. Art Resource Collaborative for Kids has partnered with Lesley University in creating a course: Integrated Teaching Through the Arts. Students can earn a graduate credit from Lesley, and will receive a professional certificate.
“We want to empower educators. We have to reform our public education system. We have an imagination crisis,” Demeter declared. “Art teaches us to not have the fear of making mistakes. If we can build holistic schools and communities, we can make huge changes.”
Demeter studied at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. The abstract, acrylic painter incorporates Arabic calligraphy into her art.
Demeter is also a member of The Beacon Hill Circle for Charity, a female-run non-profit organization that raises funds for charitable organizations serving women and children by providing private house tours. Visit www.ARCKBoston.org to make a donation in support of the art initiative.