Hands holding paint brushes make elegant strokes across the drawing papers. The eloquent colors filled immediately on 10 posters in just a few minutes seem to brighten the small room. The work owners’ faces glow with anticipation and hope.
Dreaming Alley was founded in May 2011 by five art enthusiasts of various professions, including a lawyer, a representative of an art group and a writer. “Alley” holds considerate meaning to the founders, as it is where they had the initiative to start the project. In addition, it signifies their target students, those who experience hardships, and contains their ultimate goal, which is to grow into a bigger alley from a meager one.
This non-profit organization was established to provide free art education to financially struggling high and middle school students. The systematic art education the organization pursues benefits students in their college applications and entrance exams.
“Just the winter sessions alone at art academies cost nearly 5 million won,” said Jung Bo-geun, the representative of Dreaming Alley. “I wanted to change the brutal reality that students face in a small way.”
With limited space, a mere 3.1 square meters, the organization selects a few students, first through a paper examination and then an interview to evaluate their passion and talent. Since the organization initiated its programs in July 2012, nearly 240 students have applied and 100 of them have been selected.
Currently, there are eight high school seniors, six high school sophomores and 20 middle school students. Senior high school students attend classes four times a week for four hours each day; High school sophomores and middle school students attend classes once a week.
The instructors are mostly university student volunteers from the Seoul region. They teach students once a week for four hours.
“We prefer university students as instructors,” said Jeong Chi-gu, one of the founding member of Dreaming Alley. “Since the art trend changes fast, young university students are ideal.”
The instructors play a great part in student learning. Although their primary role is teaching, they are also valuable advisers and mental supporters.
“As I have experienced financial difficulties myself, I joined the organization not only to provide art education but also to give hope and faith to students,” Beck Ga-vine (Seoul National University, 3) said.
Dreaming Alley puts in efforts to provide the most effective atmosphere and environment in other ways as well. The most prominent one is the regular exhibitions organized by Dreaming Alley. Most of the students submit their works, as exhibitions are rare opportunities for them especially at their age. The works were exhibited at a gallery in Seongbuk-dong, the law firm where Kim works, and an art club. The next exhibition will be held in October in Daehak-ro.
“Exhibitions are great opportunities for students to gain first-hand experiences,” Jeong said.
Students express endless appreciation for the efforts the organization continues to put in. They find the instructors’ advice on their works as well as on life meaningful.
“It is such a great experience for students in difficult situations like us to be able to receive art education,” said Ryu Ji-su, a high school participant.
The enduring efforts have proved immensely helpful, as three students out of five were accepted into universities as art majors in 2012. Although the accomplishments are rewarding, the organization struggles with various problems of its own.
One is financial difficulty. Several sponsor companies such as the Korea Exchange Bank and social enterprises that Jung has gathered still did not alleviate Dreaming Alley’s financial strain, which rises from paying the rent fee and providing various art facilities for students. As the organization is in its beginning stage, it also lacks adequate information to further help students in preparing for the university application process.
Dreaming Alley’s staff members constantly seek ways to solve the problems and provide a more effective environment for students. The founders hope the culture of helping others in need by utilizing individuals’ talents would spread throughout the nation.
“We hope that Dreaming Alley would be located all over Korea to benefit as many students as possible,” Jeong said.