Dot to Dot Workshop owner Alex Roberts

Gifts at Work: Strengthening Family Through Art

Inside the Dot to Dot Art Workshop in Harwich Port, owner Alex Roberts stands in front of a small group of children, asking their favorite color.

She starts the exercise by telling them hers (orange).

A 4-year-old girl lists three – red, orange, and blue. Another girl shyly whispers, “purple.”

After the icebreaker is finished, Alex reads to them the children’s book “Mouse Party” by Alan Durant.

What makes this activity unique is that each child is accompanied by a parent. “It’s an opportunity for parents and kids to learn together,” said Cape Cod Children’s Place Groups Manager Liz Dempsey.

Here, it’s not the finished artwork that’s important. It’s the shared experience – the act of connecting through creativity – that is. For underserved, marginalized families the opportunity to do so can be difficult.

Thanks to an Arts Foundation grant, Cape Cod Children’s Place was able to serve 102 families (204 individuals total) through its Early Childhood Development Multicultural Creative Arts Series. The program served a diverse group, including Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking families, and covered nine towns throughout Cape Cod.

A sign that greets visitors to the Dot to Dot Art Workshop in Harwich Port.
Visitors to the Dot to Dot Art Workshop in Harwich Port are greeted by this sign.

The grant supported multilingual outreach to underserved families; individual family support for Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking families; and eight unique arts programs that included Roberts’ Art StART at her Harwich Port studio.

Through another arts project, Vanessa Rendeiro led a “Brasileirinhos” (Little Brazilians) group that met on Saturdays, exploring Brazilian tales and nursery rhymes, accompanied by music and art. A Multicultural Playgroup brought families from various cultures together for reading, singing, and connection. And Mary Wilson inspired children to connect with their parents by exploring the outdoors while using natural materials to create art.

“This program is really giving opportunities to families they might not enjoy otherwise,” said Dempsey.

And because it’s geared towards children before they enter kindergarten, it helps them improve their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, cognitive development, and social-emotional skills. In Roberts’ classes, parents have done everything from playing with paint to exploring colors to reading books with their children.

After seeing the program in action, Arts Foundation Executive Director Julie Wake said, “It is cultural literacy for the whole family. This is a dream project.”

For Roberts, the fact the program is helping families who need it the most is not lost on her. “It’s reaching people who we normally wouldn’t be able to,” she said. “It feels really good serving the community. That is the secret to a happy life.”

Click here to ensure more families and children on Cape Cod have access to meaningful arts activities like this.