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Youth Summer Programs Returning In Rockford


A Rockford Arts organization is bringing back summer programs that sprouted from the effects of the pandemic last year -- putting their former programs on hiatus.  

Mary McNamara Bernsten is the executive director of the Rockford Area Arts Council. She says the same principles from the old camps are in place for SPARK!, SPARK in the Park and New Ways programs. 

“We felt that in 2020, we had to modify it in such a way that people would identify it as something different, and therefore safe and COVID related,” she explained. “So, we may in 2022, return to the name arts place, but it really is still an apprenticeship.”

She says the group partnered with other organizations for last year’s programs. 

“This summer, we have strengthened and expanded those partnerships with the United Way [of Rock River Valley] and WomanSpace,” she said. “And we have actually added another partnership with the trades, the skilled labor trades. And so, we are really excited about that expansion.” 

The group is partnering with New Genres Arts Space for New Ways.   

The Council offered ArtsPlace, ArtsPlace II and RAAC camp prior to the pandemic. 

SPARK! has a program for high schoolers and one for elementary-aged children.

High school students will also create treasure boxes and mosaic structures. Children ages eight through 12 can participate in the SPARK! in the Park program. 

Youth will be able to learn different trades with the New Ways experience. The spots for New Ways are filling up fast.

Fees are not required for the programs. Registration and schedules can be found on the Council’s website. 

  • Yvonne Boose is a current corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.
Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.