HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - There are few, if any, limits of the imagination when kids walk into Hattiesburg's C.E. Roy Community Center on Thursdays and Fridays.
"We give them parameters and boundaries, but we allow them to express themselves in any way they need to while they're here, including making a lot of noise and jumping up and down," program coordinator Abigail Allen said.
The program is smART Space, which started three years ago through the Hattiesburg Arts Council. Allen, with the help of other community leaders, started the program to allow kids to find their creative side.
"There are no devices here," Allen said of a world where kids tend to glue themselves to iPads and other screens.
It is a free program for anyone in the Hattiesburg area between the ages of three and 15. The afternoon starts with a creative movement class, which is based in ballet technique and "designed in fun" for the kids to learn how to sit up straight and look people in the eye. It is not a formal dance class, although there is a lot of moving after the kids play dress up. It is stretching and singing and learning good posture in a fun way.
"School is kinda nice, but smART space gives me my creative side a bit," said one of the students.
After creative movement, the kids move across the hall to paint, draw and craft, sometimes using basic materials that could be found in anyone's home, such as toilet paper rolls.
"It's important that kids have art in their lives and are exposed to it and get to touch different materials and different mediums and get to move their bodies," Allen said.
One student said she enjoys getting to "draw with my imagination," while another said they get to "create stuff and have our own ability to do it."
Allen said the support of the Hattiesburg community has proved vital to the program's success, and it was credited when the city won the 2015 City Livability Award by the United States Conference of Mayors.
smART Space, which is every Thursday and Friday from 3:15 to 5 p.m., is free. First-timers must be accompanied by a parent on the first visit and fill out a registration form, and after that, imaginations run wild!
For more information on smART Space, call the Hattiesburg Arts Council at 601-545-7316.