Springtime is a popular time for both arts and children’s events in Meridian, so it was natural that Meridian Main Street chose April 17 as the date for its first children’s arts event, the Kids’ Art Crawl. Art Crawl Co-Chair and Lauderdale County School District Gifted Contact Person Sabrina Dalton, Meridian Main Street Director John McClure, and Mississippi Art Commission Member Kris Gianakos sat down with Meridian Star staff members to talk about the event and the importance of involving children in the arts:

    The Meridian Star: How did you come up with the idea for the art crawl

    Sabrina Dalton: Last year we were able to partner with the EMBDC to have an expo for our school district that showcased the gifted students’ creative products for the entire school year, and this year it just didn’t work out with timing and scheduling to do that again. I felt having an expo is particularly important because it promotes advocacy for our program, and with school districts facing budget cuts, arts programs can disappear. So I approached John McClure and I suggested the idea of an art crawl where we could showcase students’ art, and he agreed. And because Meridian Main Street is an inclusive organization, we were able to include private school groups, home school groups, and Meridian Public Schools, and it really has just grown into something bigger than we expected, which is great

    Star: What exactly does the art crawl entail?

    Dalton: There will be venues, businesses, downtown that will stay open late that day, and each venue will have a display of the creative artwork. Also, there will be activities for the children. Different types of arts and crafts stations will be set up, and Dumont Plaza, Monument Park, and the Brickhouse Lawn will have things going on including performances from school bands, students reading literary works they’ve written, students playing instruments and singing, and some dance groups will perform. There will also be other fun stuff going on. An animal petting zoo and an instrument petting zoo, possibly a rock climbing wall, storytellers, hands on art experiences such as mask-making, sidewalk chalk art, a bouncy house, face painting, and a number of other things.

    Star: When is the event?

    Dalton: It will last from 3:30 in the afternoon until 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17, which is National Arts Advocacy Day.

    Star: Are a lot of businesses participating?

    John McClure: We don’t have a total count yet, but there we know there will be over 20 venues.

    Star: It sounds like a lot of planning has gone into it.

    Dalton: Yes. It’s taken a lot of people meeting weekly and just coming up with ideas that will really make it have an impact on the kids that are getting to participate. Student who have artwork, just for them to feel that pride and satisfaction in displaying things that they’ve created, has been a big consideration in our planning.

    McClure: We had another kid’s event, the Candy Crawl, back in October, and it was a much bigger success than we expected for a first time event. So we realized there was a demand for children’s activity downtown, and wanted to do something in the Spring. We were looking for ways to do that when Sabrina called. And partnering has always been our philosophy. We do it with volunteers. We do it with various organizations.

    Star: How many people do you expect to participate?

    McClure: It’s hard to predict, but at the Candy Crawl we think we had around 1,500 people to come and enjoy the event. If the weather’s good, I wouldn’t be surprised to have that kind of participation here.

    Kris Gianokos: And the big picture is that it celebrates our community. It celebrates the good of our community, bringing together education, the creativity that we have. We’re well blessed in this community with the little theater, the Temple Theater, the Riley Center, the Symphony, and a cadre of very creative art teachers in our school systems planting those seeds that you’ll see start to sprout in this art crawl. It elevates everybody’s awareness and pride in what we share in this community. It’s a beautiful thing. And it also creates a sense of advocacy that you have children that are being reinforced for the positive things that they’re doing. You’re advocating for better citizens in the future. You’re advocating for a better education process. People, parents, vendors, volunteers - they’re all coming down to share in a common goal of continuing to support one of the things that makes our country great. Creativity is about we citizens coming up with ideas that change the future.

    Star: Sabrina, can you talk from an educator’s perspective on the importance of arts in education?

    Dalton: With art, there’s innovation, all of these new ideas that can affect everybody’s future in the long term. As an educator, I have the ability to incorporate that throughout the school day with my students, and that’s what we’re here to showcase and share with everyone, that we’re still able to include it. Research has shown that kids who are involved with art are four times more likely to be recognized for their academic achievements. Art goes hand in hand with academics and all of the things that students are tested on. They’re not tested on the arts, but you just almost can’t in my opinion, have one without the other, because the arts just fuel so much inside that child. Children involved in the arts are three times more likely to be elected to class office within their school, four times more likely to participate in math and science fairs,  and that just goes to show that being able to experience art helps students become more well-rounded. Involvement in the arts just fuels a lot of internal, long-term benefits for the students and for society, and it’s really important to incorporate the arts into the classroom.

    McClure: We’ve got to understand that arts have value. They’re not just “frou-frou.”

    Star: Do you know how many students will have art displayed?

    Dalton: For LCSD there will be just over 600. Meridian Public Schools, I’m not quite sure, but I would suspect 800 to 900. And there will also be private school and home school participants.

    Star: Do people still have time to get involved as volunteers?

    McClure: Yes. We still need people to do anything from setting up tables to giving driving directions. There are opportunities to be involved. We wouldn’t be able to make this happen without the volunteers or without the sponsors.

    Star: What number can people call if they want to get involved or want more information?

    McClure: They can call Meridian Main Street and (601)693-7480.

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