Loud bell instruments, messy paint and wild laughter. When instructors Jennifer Sarver and Carrie Gibbs arrive to work Wednesday mornings at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mount Vernon, they know controlled chaos is in short order — the good kind.

The fun-filled mid-week mornings start at 9 a.m. and feature educational story time and art activities for preschool-aged tots. Monthly themes are explored through music, poetry and interactive expressions of art.

“We pretty much update the program every month with different themes,” said Sarver, also the director of education at Cedarhurst. “We also have a summer session that is dedicated to the bigger kids who are home from school. It gives them really fun activities for those summer months.”

The Wednesday programs have room for about 12 participants and generally fill up well ahead of their start date. “We urge parents and caregivers to call us early,” Sarver said. “Space is limited since we have a smaller staff handling the programs, but we like to include as many kids as possible.”

Past class themes have included ABCs and Art and Go Baby Go! The Cedarhurst staff works hard to conceptualize and develop programming that packs both education and entertainment into 45 minutes.

“It’s a great foundation for them to build upon,” Sarver said. “They not only pick up new skills with art and music, they gain social skills through interaction with us and the other kids as well.”

The program launched eight years ago and has built a loyal following of students, parents and caregivers.

“We love to see the kids literally grow up with the program,” Sarver said. “Since we’ve been doing it for so long, we’ve got a lot of kids who started off in this program become really great artists and students. You really get to watch them grow right in front of your eyes.”

Fees are $40 for each month of four themed classes. Cedarhurst members enjoy a 10 percent discount. Register today by calling 618-242-1236. A limited number of scholarships are available for those in need of financial assistance.

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Byron Hetzler is the photo editor for The Southern Illinoisan.

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