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  • Jennie Corley & Henry Prater

The Beginnings of Early Arts

Over the next couple of months, we are going to be telling the story of Early Arts at Edgemont, a ministry that has been touching lives in our community for almost 30 years! We will hear from several who will share their stories of the role Early Arts played in the lives of their families. I hope you will join us as we celebrate the rich history of this Edgemont Outreach Ministry. --Pastor Henry

The Beginning of Early Arts

By Jennie Corley

Tim and I moved to Florence from Birmingham, in July, 1989. At the same time we were committing to make the move, I was asked to be co-director of Early Arts, a pre-school in Birmingham where two of our children attended. The Early Arts preschool incorporated dance, music, art and cooking as teaching tools, and I was impressed by their creativity and thrilled that our children learned so much and enjoyed each day of school.

After getting our family settled in Florence, I began to think about starting a preschool modeled after the Early Arts program in Birmingham.

Tim and I were already attending Edgemont, and Hughey Reynolds, who was the minister at that time, expressed an interest in starting a preschool or some kind of children's weekday ministry at Edgemont to utilize the wonderful classrooms and other Edgemont facilities in ministry to draw the community's attention to Edgemont by bringing non-members to our campus. In true Methodist fashion, there were lots of committee meetings to discuss how the space could be shared between a weekday children's program and ongoing church programming, whether the program would be pre-school or a daycare, what it's curriculum might be, etc. By the Spring of 1991, the church approved the concept that became Early Arts and by September, 1991, we opened our doors to our first class.

The school started with 15 students. We borrowed from my children's experiences at Early Arts in Birmingham and incorporated dance, music, art and cooking in the classroom as a technique to introduce academics as well as provide a way to develop preschoolers' social and emotional skills. Today, 29 years later, Early Arts has an enrollment of 106 and still offers dance, music, art and cooking as part of the curriculum and other activities we couldn't imagine in 1991!

Early Arts has provided a unique educational start for more than 1,500 children and served more than 500 families. Many of the Edgemont preschoolers were Early Arts students. Some of those first Early Arts students are now bringing their pre-schoolers to Early Arts.

New mothers and newcomers to the area with pre-school children find Edgemont because the community points them to Early Arts as the best pre-school in the area.

The Edgemont congregation and the Early Arts staff have always viewed Early Arts as an extension of Edgemont's overall ministry. Rather than have a campus that might mostly go unused during the week, Edgemont chose to make this space available for the Early Arts program and that program brings activity, joy, and growth. By providing an excellent preschool program that is widely known and highly respected in the community, Early Arts has also made many, many people aware of Edgemont and its ministries.

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