November 2, 2022 -- Excitement was in the air at Arts IMPACT Middle School (AIMS). Musicians, fashion designers, vloggers, dancers, sculptors, and many other artists from the Columbus community were gearing for the first Friday of the month. On those Fridays, AIMS invites professional artists to educate students about their different artistic careers.
Principal Erica Dodson started this art-led initiative five years ago to put emphasis and focus back on the arts at AIMS. Each participating artist volunteers for 65 minutes to interact with students and discuss their craft. By sharing experiences and creative processes, the artists increase students’ exposure to diverse art forms.
“A lot of times, kids don’t think they can make a career out of their creativity – but when we [professional artists] visit, they realize they can, and it changes their perspective of what is possible,” said dancer Sara Tillman.
AIMS expects 25-30 visiting artists that students can register to learn from every First Friday. Over the school year, students will gain exposure to eight different artists of varying disciplines. So it isn’t only the students who learn something, but the artists walk away with more knowledge.
“I really like the middle school age because they keep me on my toes, and I can learn more from them than they’ll ever know,” Tillman said.
Walking down the middle school hallway during First Fridays is a symphony for the senses. Classrooms fill with African drum beats, bright fabrics of different textures, and sizzling culinary delights. Students are eager to learn and express themselves. They discover how to combine spices, make 3D models, and mix music on DJ equipment. In addition, students get a glimpse into the artists' day-to-day lives, their obstacles, and how they continue to succeed.
“What I’m doing now, I've wanted to do since I was their age,” said fashion designer Braisha Owens. “When life happens, always think back to when you were a child and follow that path – always follow your dreams.”
First Fridays fit with the mission of AIMS, which is for every child to develop to their full potential as an artist, creative thinker, and lifelong learner.
If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering as a First Friday artist or would like more information, please sign up here.