For the Kid in All of Us

K12 Allows Us to Return to Our Roots

By Annie Bowers

I challenge each of you to put down your laptop, iPad or smart phone at least once this week … and make something with your hands. Think back to elementary school when, if you were lucky, you went to art class and made paintings, chalk rubbings, little clay pots, crepe paper turkeys and paper mache globes — you created art. And you loved it.

But somewhere along the lines you grew up, shifted your focus and started paying less attention to your creative side. You put down the glue stick, hung up your smock, and joined the rat race, forgetting how much you enjoyed making stuff out of clay.

Since you might be one of those people who have forgotten the joy in creating art and the stress relief that comes from allowing your creative side to come out and play, let me refresh your memory. There is something calming and therapeutic about getting busier with our hands and less busy with our brains, and there is a fantastic place right here in Dayton that allows kids — and “kids” of all ages — to do just that.  It’s called the K12 Gallery.

Simply put, K12 is not your average art gallery. Founder and former art teacher, Jerri Stanard, started the K12 Gallery for Young People in 1993 after realizing a deep desire to provide all children access to art, the freedom to express themselves creatively, and the opportunity to connect with the community. “We wanted to give people from all areas a connection to the urban core, especially children. Children who grow up knowing and respecting people in the inner city want to be more involved in making the city a better place,” says Stanard.

Born in a tiny space in the Oregon District, the vision grew steadily, and in 2004 K12 moved to its current Third Street location, which includes art studios and an elementary classroom. Stanard explains, “We had a vision at K12 … we wanted it to be bigger. We took a risk and moved into the Cannery — we breathed life into that space.” In early 2010, K12 celebrated the addition of the TEJAS (Teen Education Joint Adult Studio), an adjoining gallery used for exhibits, special events and adult art classes. According to K12 Education Consultant Carolyn Wheeler, “The gallery is designed to serve the public as an inspirational space for visual art, and allow children and adults alike to feel comfortable and inspired to make art.”

K12 offers both group and private art classes for pre-school, home-schooled and elementary children. Beginning this summer, K12 will offer week long Summer Camp sessions for school-aged children that will run June 11 – August 10. And for those who consider themselves “kids at heart,” K12 provides adults and teens a break from the daily routine with evening pottery and painting classes, as well as Saturday art classes.

Stanard emphasizes that K12 isn’t merely an art studio. They are also involved in numerous community projects. One project, known as HAALO (Helping Adolescents Achieve Long Term Objectives), is a partnership between K12 and the juvenile court system that allows young people who are on probation to work with K12 advisors on long-term public art projects. The group is currently working on a series of large paintings inspired by Claude Monet, contributing to the Great Masters’ Paintings series, which can be viewed at the corner of Sears and East Third Street.

Other K12 projects that can be spotted throughout the city include a 7-panel mosaic that will soon be hanging near the Corner Cupboard on Xenia Avenue, and a large mosaic sun created by artist Jessica McMillan that will be installed at the Hospice Center of Dayton on April 30.

K12 spreads art and artists alike throughout the community. Through their artist placement program, K12 assists local artists in getting involved in teaching opportunities throughout the region’s schools. The gallery is also available to school systems that want to show their students’ work in the K12 space. Stanard explains, “We want to be a place where people can make art freely and feel connected to the community in a variety of ways.”

Steeped in a genuine dedication to the community, K12 strives to make art available to everyone. They continue to work with schools, the city, the courts and a network of local artists in order to touch as many lives as possible, increase community involvement and make art more accessible across the board. Stanard emphasizes, “We don’t deny anyone access to art, regardless of their financial standing. We have scholarships and passes — anyone who wants to take the studio classes can do so. We find a way to get them in. The classes are full of people from different places at all times. We provide the right framework and expertise to help everyone feel creative and be creative — regardless of their background.”

As K12 reminds us, there is nothing quite like art to encourage people to get in touch with their creative side, each other and their community. Stanard states, “Anyone can be an artist. Anyone can be a creative thinker. We see an artist in everyone we meet.”

Take the opportunity this week to put down your cell phone, turn off the television and spend some time with your creative side, exploring some of the classes and opportunities K12 has to offer. I think you’ll be glad you did.

(For more information on art classes and community opportunities, visit

Reach DCP freelance writer Annie Bowers at


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In her "other" life (while not busy being a ninja) Annie owns and operates The Envelope, a unique stationery boutique in Centerville which specializes in custom invitations and lovely paper creations. She is a member of Generation Dayton, does freelance graphic design, writing and photography, plays tennis, and is a Mini Cooper enthusiast.

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