RiverKidsProgram’s popularity, influence continues to grow for SCHF

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, September 12, 2012

For the past 14 years, RiverKids has been one of the Southern Cultural Heritage Foundation’s most popular programs, helping promote the artistic talents of area youths.

This year, 65 students are participating in the free after-school program taught by Karen Biedenharn and Regina Renot.

“The whole idea of the program started because there are so many different artists and programs in Vicksburg,” Biedenharn said. “We’re trying to reach the kids and develop their interests in the arts, whether it’s painting or sculpting or drawing.”

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Annette Kirklin is the executive director of the Southern Cultural Heritage Center, where the classes are held each Thursday afternoon.

“Arts, especially in this area, is so important,” she said. “The cultural activities of this area are such a vital aspect of the community.”

Beyond immediate lessons about art, Kirklin said, students often leave with a more creative thought process.

“It does a lot for the students,” she said. “It makes them develop more creativity. Whether it’s pottery, painting or pastels, they get opened to so many different things.”

RiverKids has been so popular that several students have returned to assist the teachers after they passed the age limit for the program.

For Biedenharn, the most rewarding aspect of the program is not the art that students produce, but the confidence they develop.

“They think that art is pretty and that art is a talent that only certain people have,” Biedenharn said. “They’ll draw pictures that are messy, and their friends will tell them it’s ugly.

“There’s a lot of kids that don’t think they can do art because it’s not neat and clean,” she continued. “To me, it’s a matter of changing their perspective and not losing hope in something that’s a great therapeutic outlet.”

The popularity is growing, Kirklin said. This year, there’s a waiting list.