ASAP, the After School Arts Program, affirms young people as persons of value, nurtures their skill and talent in the arts, helps them realize their artistic gifts, and broadens their awareness of varieties of artistic expression.

Begun in the fall of 2007 as an outreach ministry of St. John’s Lutheran Church in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, ASAP offers quality after-school enrichment programming in visual, musical/performing, literary, dramatic, culinary and other applied arts for select 3rd through 6th graders attending Des Moines Public Schools. ASAP works to ensure that its students’ arts education is both deeply and broadly enriched through their participation in the program.

In 2009, Arts for the City, Inc., was created as an independent 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization to administer ASAP, its flagship program. Donations to ASAP are fully tax-deductible.

A Real Solution to a Real Need

Many young people in our community are underserved by the arts education offered in school. Yet for many reasons—transportation, cost, awareness, familial support, etc.—these students do not have access to the excellent arts programming offered by other area arts organizations. These kids need opportunities to develop their artistic talents and avenues to exercise self-expression.

ASAP, the After School Arts Program, works to connect these students with challenging, enriching arts experiences in a structured, supportive environment.

Since its inception, ASAP has served children from King Academy, Moulton Extended Learning Center, and Edmunds Elementary. Under the auspices of a 21st Century Learning Centers Grant in partnership with Des Moines Public Schools, ASAP recently expanded programming to Monroe Elementary, Capitol View Elementary, McKinley Elementary, and Brody Middle School. Students are recommended for participation in ASAP by their art and music teachers, as having shown interest or talent in the arts or because of perceived need.

The After School Component

Parents praise ASAP for being a quality program they could never otherwise afford and for keeping kids safe in the crucial, often unsupervised, after-school hours. Teachers praise ASAP for broadening their students’ experience with the arts in ways they cannot do in the classroom. They note an increase in students’ self-esteem as well as more motivation to learn through arts education. Children are positively changed—becoming more expressive, more patient, more polite, more outgoing, more confident, more happy—because of their involvement with ASAP and their exposure to the arts.

ASAP’s learning goals are based on national arts curriculum standards, and address arts learning as well as social-emotional development. Opening activities are designed to help students transition from the school day, strengthen social and communication skills, and prepare for focused, creative studio work. Students are assigned to one of five studios each session, and they showcase the work they have created in an exhibition or performance at a culminating event.

The closing reception at the end of each session brings together students’ families, teachers, and other program stakeholders to enjoy student exhibitions and performances and a light meal. Presentation skills are an important part of a young artist’s development, and this event builds a strong sense of community while celebrating the creativity of our young people. For many families, these events constitute their primary access to the arts in Greater Des Moines—ASAP seizes these opportunities to educate and enlighten, as well as entertain, the audience.

ASAP Summer Arts Camp

In addition to the after-school component, ASAP launched its annual Summer Arts Camp in 2009. Summer Arts Camp brings ASAP programming to Evelyn K. Davis Park in the Mid City area of Des Moines, allowing all interested neighborhood children to explore hands-on arts activities. Participants are invited to choose two studios per day over the course of four or five days, all free of charge.

In 2011, the theme of ASAP Summer Arts Camp was “eagles” to honor the newly selected mascot of Davis Park. All five studios that summer focused on eagles, and kids were able to observe a live eagle in the park one day thanks to Kay Neuman of . Save Our Avian Resources (SOAR). Other camp highlights included a day exploring the eagle in Native American art with guest artist Ralph Moisa Jr. of the Yaqui nation, founder of the White Eagle Pow Wow. The Giant Puppets studio, led by Tim Schmitt, made an impressive eagle mascot that requires four people to operate it; ASAP gifted the mascot to the park in a special ceremony, then “flew” the Davis Eagle in the 2011 Iowa State Fair Parade, winning a prize for “Most Original” walking entry!