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BLOOMINGTON — A new nonprofit wants to bring arts programs to any child in McLean County regardless of socioeconomic status.

"This is all about giving kids opportunities they otherwise might not have access to because of money," said Marcie Taylor. "One day we're going to actually have a community that doesn't see things divided between colors and neighborhoods. ... The arts might be the key to open that door."

Taylor is director of Compassion Center for the Arts, an entity of Second Presbyterian Church that aims to continue its emphasis on spreading the arts in the community.

"Years ago Second Pres had another building on their property, and it was kind of a music academy for private lessons. It was a community outreach program, so the lessons were very cost-effective," she said. "A member of the congregation who passed away donated some money and specifically wanted some of that earmarked so they could start up a music academy again."

The center will start teaching kids about four types of art through a summer camp and expand to preschool and after-school programs this fall. All those will be low-cost, but not so low they can't support themselves, said Taylor.

"When I was making the business plan for this, I really focused on making a more affordable option for families but also sustainable," she said. "I'd love to be able to offer it to everyone at no cost, but then we couldn't pay to have quality teachers and and programming."

The center currently has four teachers: Taylor, a long-time music teacher and stage performer, for drama; Illinois Wesleyan University student Jasil Olabode for music; Illinois State University student Tahvia Olabode for dance; and long-time private instructor Caryn Ross for arts and crafts.

The camp, called "How Great Thou Art," runs Monday to Thursday afternoons July 8 to Aug. 8 with activities in each type of art each day. It will cost $80 per week for the general public; $10 per week for kids who qualify for reduced-cost lunch; and free for kids who qualify for free lunch.

"We know mid-July is when stay-at-home moms are ready for the kids to go back to school," said Taylor of the camp schedule with a laugh.

The camp and the fall program will both be at Second Presbyterian at 404 N. Prairie St. in downtown Bloomington. Preschool and after-school options and prices are listed at marcietaylor.wixsite.com/compassionctrarts.

"On request we can do private lessons," said Taylor. "After this first year we're hoping to add evening workshops for adults with and without disabilities. We've found that's a real need in the community. .... We're hoping to also build a musical theater program."

Elissa Bailey, associate pastor at Second Presbyterian, said she's excited for her daughters, six-year-old Grace and five-year-old Sophie, to attend the camp next month.

"My children love music, so that's a big part of our life, and I'm looking forward to them learning from professionals, not only music but all forms of artistic expression," said Bailey. "It's an opportunity for them to learn and hopefully find a passion they'll continue through their school years and into adulthood."

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Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh


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