Throughout the pandemic, the welfare of students is an ongoing concern with schools still deciding between onsite classes and virtual classes.
However, most of this consideration is reserved for subjects like math, science, English, and social studies, leaving visual and performing arts to the in a toss-up.
To keep visual and performing arts apart of the conversation, Ty Woods, CEO of Artportunity Knocks, an Atlanta-based non-profit that aims to provide art-centered after school programs, is working to provide virtual programs for students.
“We are a non-profit, youth arts organization based in Atlanta, whose mission is to encourage youth to make positive and smart choices while increasing their opportunities in the arts,” Woods said. “We had to pivot our model a lot in terms of programming. We currently offer online art classes.”
Additionally, Woods said that Artportunity Knocks was able to partner with the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, and the Georgia Department of Education’s School Nutrition office to deliver fresh meals directly to the homes of students enrolled in their programs, along with art kits or at-home activities.
Artportunity Knocks serves over 20,000 students locally and impacted over 100,000 students through teacher professional development for teachers across the nation.
Before the pandemic, Woods’ organization provided multiple in-person opportunities for students to participate in after school art education.
“We partner with local school districts to offer in-house after school programs. We also partner with the City of Atlanta to offer community-based after school programs in their recreation centers. We also do summer camps and workshops along the lines of arts and entertainment,” Woods said.
She started the organization following the 2008 recession, after being let go from her job as an art teacher due to budget cuts.
“It started during the recession. The recession hit and the first to get cut from budgets are the arts,” Woods said. “I was a teacher at the time and I was one of those teachers to get cut.”
“We realized during the recession that there would be a lot of parents out of work and kids were going to be left to themselves so we wanted to do something that was positive for kids to come to.
Without a facility, Woods opened her two-bedroom apartment to kids in her community until she was able to move her programming to a more suitable location. Her initial offerings were drama, singing, and music production classes.
“At the time I had a two-bedroom apartment and we had a second bedroom that no one was using. We went out to the neighborhood and passed out fliers to kids. It ended up becoming so big that the apartment complex said that we could use the clubhouse. Once we outgrew the clubhouse and a local church in the area opened their classrooms,” Woods said.
More recently, Artpotunity Knocks is found a new home base at Changing A Generation Full Gospel Baptist Church in southwest Atlanta, headed by Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr.
“My uncle reached out to Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr., and he wanted to do something for the community,” Woods said. He heard what we are trying to do with opening up an opportunity to have parents return to work while having kids in a safe environment.
“Since the church is officially closed they have such a huge facility 200,00 sq. ft here. He opened up his church to us and we’re using the classrooms on the school side. It’s our most fruitful partnership during COVID-19 because it allows students to be able to see other kids.”
As the new year approaches, Woods and Artportunity Knocks is placing greater emphasis on expanding its learning pods, which allows students to do on-site virtual learning in small groups.
“Our newest initiative is our learning pods, where we offer small group virtual learning. This will be on-site virtual learning for working families in a small group setting. Kids can have virtual learning activities with their schools but in safe, fun, and secure locations for parents to get back to work,” Woods said.
Her plans including having the program implemented in the 13 counties that make up metro Atlanta.
“It’s more than a babysitting place or kids to do online school,” Woods said. It’s a place for them to learn and create. I want kids to come and also take up a guitar class or an acting class.