The Center for Art and Education in Van Buren plans to dramatically expand its summer camp program for children in 2014.

"To do this we need the community’s support," said Jane Owen, CAE director. "We are working with our partners in the eduction community to continue our work with students in after-school programs."

What is needed now, Owen said, are contributions to provide scholarships.

"For every $10 donated the art center will provide a scholarship for a child to attend CAE art camp this summer," she said. "We consistently offer these needed programs at minimal or no cost because we are a non-profit supported by people just like you."

In 2013, the art center served thousands of young people by hosting the annual River Valley Student Art Competition and providing a summer camp experience for hundreds of students in nine different communities in the area.

"Many of these young people would have no opportunity for any sort of summer activities without CAE," Owen said. "These camps, which we call Wonderful World of Art, were offered at a cost of only $10 per student, and because of the support of so many we were able to offer dozens of scholarships to young people whose families found even that minimal amount an insurmountable barrier."

CAE hosted 11 exhibitions in its gallery at 104 N. 13th St., which was viewed by thousands of people at absolutely no costs. The center also launched a new program call "Art Night Out" in which adults had the opportunity to create their own masterpiece in one session.

Owen said one of the highlights of the year was hosting master artist Timothy Clark, who also provided a guided tour of Crystal Bridges Museum to CAE patrons.

"We know that exposure to art and the artistic process supports critical and creative thinking in students, increases test scores and is directly related to academic success," she said. "We also know that art helps bring down walls, brings people together and provides an opportunity for growth and development that can’t be gotten in any other way."

Owen said she is reminded of a student she met whose brother and sister were both star athletes in the community.

"This young man lacked those athletic skills and he felt a bit inferior because of it," Owen said. "With only a few hours of art instruction he had created a beautiful painting which drew praise from his peers and his family."

He became, Owen said, more confident and more willing to try new things; soon his grades went up and he still purses his passion for the arts today.

"Success stories like this one are not unique," she said. "I believe that every young person deserves the opportunity to succeed, and for many students, art is the best avenue to use to teach hard work, perseverance and the other needed skills required to successfully navigate life."

Owen said CAE needs financial help to provide the spark needed to light the fire in a young person’s eyes.

"Your contribution will help us continue to provide opportunities for growth and success for our young people," she said.

Owen can be contacted at (479) 474-7767.