A Fresh Start



The Flint Institute of Arts is always looking for more opportunities, both great and small, to engage the public in the arts. In the case of the small, the FIA’s Success Through ART program, better known as START, is a great way to get preschoolers involved in the total art experience.

Now in its second year of operation, the FIA START program is a collaborative effort between city Head Start preschool programs and FIA. START, which is headed by FIA Curator of Education Monique Desormeau and Assistant Curator of Education Michelle Pennington, allows three-to-five-year-old children who participate in Head Start the chance to learn about art and to create art of their own while in class at Head Start and on field trips to FIA. The idea is to get kids thinking about art displayed in the FIA gallery and art on display in their world. The children are asked to use all of their senses to describe what they see and how they feel about art. This process of engagement has had success not only among the children of Head Start, but also with their parents, who are often intimately involved thanks to Free Family Programs. Desormeau and Pennington agree that during many sessions, “The parents get to be learners too,” and these parents enjoy discovering new perspectives on art alongside their young.


Desormeau says the best part of her job is “seeing the look on [the children’s]faces when they’re in awe of art,” while Pennington noted the joy she receives from seeing a parent and child “share in the experience” of learning about art. The main funders who make START possible are PNC Foundation and the Ruth Mott Foundation. Additional funds have been provided by The Sheppy Dog Fund through Dr. Alan Klein, an area pediatric dentist who believes so strongly in the program that he funds the transportation for FIA field trips.

The 2013 program will begin in December, when START staff visit Head Start facilities.

While drafting the idea of START, Desormeau saw the tentative program as “an opportunity to make a good contribution to the community” and as a way to ensure that people would look to FIA as a place to return for all things art throughout their lives. “If people see us as a resource and a place of positivity, they’ll keep coming,” she says. “Ultimately we want to be a lifelong experience for the community.” Along with the potential of a lifelong art experience, Desormeau and Pennington believe that START also has the potential to act as “an impetus for success in other areas in life.”


Childhood is known as the most vital time to nurture art in our lives. If your child is involved in a Genesee County Head Start program, they are eligible for START, and as the company looks to expand, be sure to find out if your Head Start Program participates with this incredible free program.

There was a child went forth every day; and the first object he look’d upon, that object he became; and that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years. – Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass



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