Circle Round the Square, our intensive summer-arts enrichment program, serves students in the Nelsonville-York City School District (NYCSD). One of the poorest counties in Ohio, nearly 60% of the children and their families in this district live at or below the national poverty level. Many go hungry.
Inside this once-abandoned Appalachian coal mining town the schools suffer. Nelsonville-York City School Distict (NYCSD) lacks the resources to include art classes in their elementary and middle school curriculum, K-8. In fact, art has never been offered to students in the district as long as anyone can remember. Only recently have classes been added as an elective at the high school level. Imagine a child 15 years old who has never painted before. Sadly we don't have to. Outside school, art is a luxury our families can’t afford when food itself is scarce.
In 2003, abandoned storefronts, low rents, and a high aesthetic attracted artists who opened some 20 shops galleries and studios on the historic town square. Though some residents and businesses welcomed the artists, there were as many who were uncomfortable and unfamiliar with the arts. As lively galleries, art walks, and working studios replaced empty storefronts, families who lacked experience and means were being pushed even further to the edges of what was to become, in 2004, a culturally divided community.
This presented Paper Circle with a unique challenge - and responsibility - to find a way to provide equal access to the arts for all community members, especially the under-served students in the district. In possession of tremendous imagination, spirit and untapped capability, it was and is our intent to provide these children with enrichment opportunities to help them to achieve their fullest potential.
In July of 2005 Paper Circle's summer youth arts initiative, Circle Round the Square, was launched.
Circle's goals were and are to:
For the first four years students rotated through classes in studios located on the square. In 2006 and 2007 we added a theater and wellness component to our offerings. Families were invited to attend the annual art opening and theater shows at Stuart's Opera House.
In 2009 and 2010 ( in 2009 as Circle Round the School and Summer Circle) in 2010 in partnership with The Nelsonville York City Schools, our program was held in the new elementary school and Poston Middle school, respectively. NYCSD provided busing, meals, space and administrative assistance. Unfortunately in 2011 the district was no longer able to provide space or assistance for our program, and we returned to our roots on the square. It was only with the resounding support from the community, our partners and familiy members that this was made possible.