PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Nikki Romain’s nonprofit was open for barely a year before lockdown. She came to realize how much children struggled during this time.
The proud co-owner and Executive Director of Artists Reenvisioning Tomorrow (ART) Inc. knew she had to pivot.
“We did a lot of pivots. We pivoted for the summer, we did a virtual summer camp. We mailed out over a thousand art kits to students in the community,” Romain said. “We have a program called ‘Empower our Girls’ for high school and junior high teens. We did that virtually, and it was really amazing because… this year we focused on wellness… and then we had speakers come from all over the world to talk about their journey to success and what they do for self-care.”
ART Inc. is located at the Romain Center in Peoria, formerly the Greeley School. The building was purchased in 2018, and then owners Nikki and Jonathan Romain started their nonprofit ART Inc. in 2019.
The mission of the 501 (c)(3) is to enhance the arts education for Peoria youth. This includes a variety of programs, camps, art classes, field trips, and collaboration with Peoria Public Schools. ART Inc. has a focus on theater, music, dance, and visual arts. But, their programs go beyond simply extra-curricular activities.
“Within the majority of the classes that we offer, we offer a STEM-based curriculum. That includes STEAM; so we have science, technology, engineering, arts of course, and math. That is infused into all of our classes because we want to be able to have a well-rounded curriculum,” Romain said.
This summer, there are four themed weeks for summer camps: Move and Groove, Full STEAM Ahead, Creative Arts, and The World’s Your Stage. There will be morning and afternoon sessions.
Also available this summer is a five-week “Summer Readiness” program. It is available for kids entering kindergarten, first or second grade.
“I know with COVID, you know, our kids have really struggled,” Romain said. “So the ‘Summer Readiness’ program is going to be a game-changer for our kids.”
Romain referred to the typical “summer slide,” referring to children getting accustomed to being out of the classroom during school breaks. However, she said this year has been even more drastic with learning loss. She said the younger children need the “Summer Readiness” program the most.
“We want to be able to help kids– of course, our classes will have some art-centered relation to them,” Romain said, “but we really wanted to make sure that these kids don’t lose out from this year.”
Art Inc. board member, Carolina Huser, said she wanted to get involved in the nonprofit when she first met the Romains.
“Immediately, I fell in love with their mission and their commitment to the community,” Huser said. “I felt it was a very strong thing to be a part of.”
To register for Art Inc. programs, visit their website. There are limited spaces due to COVID-19 mitigations. All programs have a pay-what-you-can system. This means, no matter how much a family can afford for children’s programs, they are still able to register.
“We want to be able to have these kids have the arts in their lives and not let the finances be a roadblock to that,” Romain said.