Trish Yerges
The La Grande Observer

By Trish Yerges

For The Observer

The La Grande Department of Parks & Recreation is hosting the annual Arts for All event from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. April 27 at the Riveria School activity center. Kids of all ages and their parents are welcome to enjoy a fun-filled day, creating art in 20 different mediums.

“This is the first year I have been involved with Arts for All since it is now coming back to the Parks & Rec department from Art Center East,” said McKayla Nitz, city recreation supervisor. “Last year it was at the armory, but we’re moving it back to Riveria this year.”

Arts for All is an opportunity for children of every demographic to experience art in a first-hand sense, she said. It’s free to the public, and children of all ages are welcome.

“(The event strives) to make it so there are as few barriers as possible so these children get to experience art,” Nitz said. “Special education children and those with auditory needs are also welcome to participate.”

Instead of a separate event for children with special needs, Arts for All is doing something a little different this year, following a similar inclusion model to what schools are moving toward.

“So if your child has auditory needs where they can’t be around loud noises or lots of stimuli, we’re reserving the last half hour of the event just for those kids specifically,” Nitz said. “We will be ushering the other kids out at about 11 a.m. unless they are a child with auditory needs.”

Nitz has been lining up some projects and looking for art instructors to demonstrate.

The Eastern Oregon Symphony will bring its instrument “petting zoo” where kids can experience instruments firsthand. Nitz said activities will include string art, origami, photography, clay, tie-dye, 3-D printing, watercolors, pastels, book binding and needle-felting.

“Needle-felting is where you take wool and tie the fibers together by poking a certain kind of needle in, and it creates 3-D wool shapes,” Nitz said.

All art supplies will be provided, but Nitz recommended children wear washable clothing like long T-shirts or a smock for messier activities. There will be one instructor and two volunteers at each table to guide children in the activity at hand.

“The instructors I have gotten hold of have been very willing to participate, or if they were going to be out of town they have directed me to a secondary resource,” Nitz said.

Nitz said she expects her involvement in the event will be rewarding.

“You get to see kids experience something brand new in a real way,” she said. “For all the work I put into things, I get to see the results first hand and all the good that it does. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Arts for All was managed by the City of La Grande from its inception until 2016 when Art Center East took over stewardship. Although it was popularly received by the community, the non-profit Art Center East found it difficult to sustain due to the high cost of renting an event facility and providing supplies and staff for it.

See complete story in Monday's Observer