To Inspire Children

Arts programs that nurture imaginations


From paints, glitter, and nature to clay, fabrics, and musical instruments – there is unlimited potential for children of all ages to express their creativity. That’s the mission of two arts programs in downtown Wilmington.

The Creative Child Studio is a new art studio designed for children, and the DREAMS Center for Arts Education is a longtime multidisciplinary program for youth development.

ANGELA CREASY opened The Creative Child Studio ( this past fall at theArtWorks on Willard Street in an area that once held the Block Shirt Factory. Her voice is full of warmth as she describes current classes and future project ideas.

“It’s always been my dream to someday have my own art studio for children,” Creasy says.

The Creative Child Studio offers preschool, after-school, and homeschool classes, as well as sessions with toddlers and caregivers, holiday-themed events, and one-day workshops.

Creasy focuses on the process and experience of creating, and her programs are geared toward younger children from about ages two to twelve. She hopes to inspire confidence as children paint pictures, work with clay, make outdoor nature crafts, create felt stuffed animals, build fairy gardens and snow globes, and do other projects.

“All children are artists,” Creasy says. “The way that they create and do things is so cool looking. They don’t get in their heads so much. They’re just having fun.”

kids art

At DREAMS, children ages eight to seventeen may enroll for after-school, summer, and homeschool classes. The nonprofit, founded in 1997, is located on Fanning Street in a historic former municipal garage.

Interim Executive Director AMY JEFFREY began working with DREAMS in 2018. She gently beams while touring rooms alive with colors, art pieces, and possibilities.

“It’s anybody’s dream come true in here,” Jeffrey says in a music studio with pianos, guitars, drums, and other instruments.

DREAMS also has a gallery, performance venue, learning kitchen, digital arts studio, dance studio, photography darkroom, fine arts room, multimedia room, and pottery room. A sea-themed mural, metal fish, and fabric sculptures were among items planned for an exhibit at the North Carolina Aquarium in Fort Fisher.

Various teaching artists work with DREAMS, and Jeffrey says they connect other topics with art lessons.

“Music teachers talk about math; fine arts teachers talk about geography and reading,” Jeffrey says. “They bring in other academic subjects and strengthen those pathways in the brain through art.”

“What art does – it necessarily challenges and makes your right brain operate with your left brain,” theArtWorks Managing Director JIM KNOWLES says. “It lets the creative side interact with the analytical side.”

Knowles has created an alter ego mascot for the art village – an art cricket named Art E Bug – who may visit some classes to tell stories or help with art lessons.

“Art E Bug’s tagline is, ‘If you want a great nation, it demands a great education, and it all starts with the arts,’” Knowles says.

Both The Creative Child Studio and DREAMS aim to be a positive presence in children’s lives.

“I want to create a message of kindness and loving yourself, believing in yourself, helping others,” Creasy says.

Kids Art In Article 1“It’s just really important for kids that age to have a safe outlet and a place to be and something to do – other than sit there on their phones – and be around like-minded people and peers that see them for who they are and appreciate them,” says DREAMS Program Coordinator MAGGIE JEFFREY.

Classes at The Creative Child Studio are about $15 to $25. Projects have included painting winter handprint cardinals and making gratitude journals with watercolors and beads. Creasy also recently held a Paint for a Purpose event where each child made two paintings – one to keep and the other to donate for a gallery sale with proceeds to help DREAMS.

DREAMS ( is funded through grants and individual contributions, which allows the nonprofit to offer classes tuition-free.

“Youth are our community members, and they’re our future,” says DREAMS Program Director LIZZ WELLS. “Investing in them and setting them up for success – especially those who might not find themselves in life experiences where that is a given – is just really powerful.”

Most families served are at or below the New Hanover County poverty line, Wells says.

“It’s so inclusive,” Amy Jeffrey adds. “Kids from the very highest echelon of socioeconomics come in here and they interact with everybody else in a very equal and friendly way, and so does everybody else. There’s so little judgment. All these kids are so supportive of each other and so kind to each other, and they get excited about what each other’s doing. The relationships are really beautiful to watch.”

Arts and Kids: Below is a sampling of other area programs for budding artists

Cameron Art Museum

CAM has extensive programming for pint-sized Picassos to talented teens, including Kids@CAM events, Art Explorers for the infant-to-toddler age group, and Youth Studio classes at its Museum School.

Sprout Yoga & Art

This Wrightsville Beach children’s studio combines movement and visual arts activities. Owner Shannon Agee focuses on Process Art, which is child-directed and focused on the act of making.

Community Arts Center

The center at Hannah Block Historic USO Building in downtown Wilmington is one of many organizations that offer summer arts camps, as well as events throughout the year. Camps range in focus from visual to performing arts.

To view more of photographer Madeline Gray’s work, go to

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Categories: Features