Art Refines Motor Skills, Teaches Self-Esteem And Cultivates Independence In Children

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Funding cuts over the years have whittled art program budgets like water erodes sandstone. Art education has lost billions of dollars to dwindling financial support.

Recent budget shortcomings include President George Bush's proposal to slash nearly 50 art-related programs, equaling about $4.3 billion in fiscal year 2006-2007.

In 2004, Governor Janet Napolitano shaved 16 percent of Arizona's art funding.

Meanwhile, 28 million American children come home to an empty house with nothing to do.

In place of after-school art and activity programs -- blacked out by budget cuts -- juvenile crime peaks during the hours after the bell rings, according to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Jay and Kasandra LeBow want to fill the gaps that funding cuts have left for the children of Payson.

"You cannot tell an artist what to do," Kasandra LeBow said. "The goal is to inspire kids to have a mind of their own so they're not pressured by peer groups."

To shore up programs such as Credit for Kids, which provide funding for flagging curricula, the LeBows established a nonprofit organization called Artists Rock for Nonviolence.

"(Artists Rock for Nonviolence) is about encouraging personal self-expression in a positive, creative way," said Kasandra.

"My immediate goal is to (acquire) a building that would served as an art gallery and an art center. It would be a place where troubled kids could come and learn how to express feelings."

The LeBows created Children's Art Reaches Everyone or C.A.R.E. under the auspices of Artists Rock for Nonviolence. C.A.R.E incorporates art, especially children's creativity, to foster community support among businesses and altruistic organizations such as Hospice and the Time Out women's shelter.

C.A.R.E. collects endorsements through private and corporate donations, and the proceeds from the sale of artwork.

The LeBows said they take these contributions and purchase supplies to bolster after-school art programs like the class Kasandra teaches to elementary school students.

Gail Gorry, principal of Frontier Elementary School, said in 20 years her curriculum has never offered a formal art program.

Art, she said, is a piece of a child's development that refines motor skills, teaches self-esteem and cultivates independence.

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Jay and Kasandra LeBow, right, host an art show Friday, March 31 to raise money for local art programs.

"It gives (children) a more balanced outlook on life," Gorry said. "It's a way to get emotions out. They become inwardly directed."

To raise money for their efforts, the LeBows will host an art show at Chapman Auto Center, 101 N. Beeline Hwy., from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, March 31.

Dozens of pieces from the couple's personal collection of paintings, pottery and glass items will be on display and for sale.

Purchases are 100 percent tax deductible.

Prescott lounge singer, Lou Burrell, described by Jay LeBow as a young Mel Torme, completes the evening's festivities.

"When we do shows like this we put together an eclectic mix," said Jay LeBow.

"We want to raise the bar and that's what we do whenever we have the opportunity to do it."

The exhibit is open to the public, and continues through Saturday afternoon.

The weekly "Farmer's Market," organized by the LeBows, will be held from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and continues every Saturday through the summer.

The "Farmer's Market" features vendors selling everything from organic produce to handmade jewelry.

The LeBows have many art events planned for the 2005 art season, in an exhibit of jury selected student art at Kohl's Ranch, July 17.

For more information, call Jay or Kasandra LeBow at (928) 474-9819.

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