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Youth arts foundation announces major expansion project 

Youth Arts Foundation new building

Local youth arts center receives major donation to expand and serve hundreds more at no cost to families

Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation announced Wednesday the future of youth arts in San Luis Obispo County with a cutting-edge new building expansion. In 2018, PRYAF acquired property adjacent to its current 10,000 sq. ft. center, at 3201 Spring St in Paso Robles, with the goal of serving more local youth through arts enrichment.  The new wing is slated to add another 7000 sq. ft., making PRYAF one of the largest, free arts campuses in the state.

Soon after the property was acquired, it was cleared by generous volunteers and the planning began. The design team at Gabriel Architects worked closely with PRYAF to create a functional and artistic, conceptual design that speaks to young artists and performers.

PRYAF Executive Director Emily Jagger, right, receives a check for $250,000 from Jennifer Lahoda, left, Donna Berg's granddaughter who made the gift on behalf of the Berg Family Foundation. I

PRYAF Director of Development Emily Jagger, right, on receives a check for $250,000 from Jennifer Lahoda, left, Donna Berg’s granddaughter who made the gift on behalf of the Berg Family Foundation. The arts foundation held a reception Wednesday in Paso Robles for supporters

Paso Robles Youth Arts has been in the quiet phase of a capital campaign since June 2019 and has raised nearly half of the funds needed to build and furnish the cutting-edge new arts wing. The campaign titled, “Spirit of “I Can – We Can!” pays homage to the founder, artist, and philanthropist, Donna Berg, who encouraged students to reach for the stars in all they did every day. A banner with this motto still hangs in the Berg Auditorium.

The arts program began in 1998 and operated in local schools and facilities until the current center was built in 2001. PRYAF’s mission was soon adopted: To enrich the lives of area youth with free, after-school classes in the visual and performing arts in a safe and nurturing environment. This expansion will increase opportunities for hundreds of students per year waiting to enroll at no charge to families.

“We are so thrilled to bring these new, creative spaces to our community,” says Emily Jagger, PRYAF director of development. “We can offer classes in the new facility that we can’t teach now for lack of space. It is not for lack of interest, because we know the students will come. We can add to current programming for some of our most popular classes, such as Beginning Art and Piano and make room for new students to get involved. Classes like STEAM – that is STEM, with an “A” for the Arts, as well as recording arts, graphic arts, culinary arts and more, are all on the way.”

PRYAF Executive Director Mindy Dierks said, “Leading up to our program expansion and new space, we plan to connect profoundly with other Local Youth Community Leaders to gather ideas and interest in how we can better serve our youth, collaborate with each other, and engage our community with the arts at the highest of standards. We have 350 students per session, and we hope to double that the first year of expanded programming. I welcome anyone to connect with me to find out how you can get involved in our movement.”

Almost every space in the new building will have a purpose, except for a large Education Room which will be available to other non-profits and be used as a flex space for events or as a classroom when needed. The expanded PRYAF will include a Culinary Arts Kitchen to help prepare students for careers in culinary expression, an Art Gallery and meeting spaces to display students’ work. New classes such as ceramics are coming to the new Art Room, named after beloved, PRYAF Art Instructor, Danielle Valenzuela.

Spaces are being created for Graphic Design, building props and STEAM classes that will prepare students for tech careers. Expanded Music and Dance Programs are needed with space for choir risers and an expanded collection of musical instruments. A recording studio for songwriters will be added as well as a music classroom with rehearsal spaces for individual musicians and groups. Plans are coming together for two, beautiful dance studios with hardwood floors and plenty of mirrors. The organization plans to bring more cultural experiences to the community with even more, Visual and Performing Arts at a high level.

PRYAF serves students from across San Luis Obispo County and beyond. They have outgrown their current building, serving nearly 350 students per session, with five sessions per year, and about 100 students per day attending classes after school.

PRYAF provides all children a safe place to learn the arts, regardless of socioeconomic status. More than 85-percent of the youth enrolled are low income. Many students are from single-parent households, without transportation, who can walk to the facility after school. PRYAF provides a creative outlet and a positive means of dealing with negative influences such as poverty, gangs, and drugs that students face outside of this safe space. As older students begin to enter the working world, college or other bright futures, we see the positive impact the program has had on their lives.

Support PRYAF students and building expansion

The community is invited to get involved and help raise the second half of the building funds. There are naming opportunities and plenty of ways to support this project that will give the gift of the arts for years to come. Contact PRYAF at 805-238-5825 x15 or visit www.pryaf.org/donate.

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.