Los Banos gets new art program

mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 3, 2014 

— Creating a stress-free life by combining art and exercise is what Los Banos resident Christopher Harris hopes to accomplish with Fitness Through Art.

“It’s a fun way to learn about health and nutrition ... and also a way to help young adults find a way to relieve stress,” said Harris, program creator.

The idea for Fitness Through Art came years ago while Harris was working as a trainer and surrounded by people who inspired him to help others. When Harris moved to Los Banos in the summer, he saw the need to have something similar here, he said. With the help of the Los Banos Arts Council and vice president of program development Cyndi Roelofs, the program got its start.

Classes started in November. “The turnout has been good,” Harris said.

Roelofs said Fitness Through Art is a good fit with the Los Banos Arts Council, which seeks to advance, support, encourage, promote and advocate cultural and educational activities.

“We feel that combining the arts with fitness is a perfect combination of good things art and physical activity,” she said, “and to benefit the mental and physical well-being of our citizens.” Roelofs is referring to the movement involved in painting and of showing artistic expression through exercise.

The program has three instructors, including Harris. He has eight certifications in physical fitness and health. He is also a certified personal trainer through the International Sports Science Association and is a performing arts major. One instructor specializes in music and the other in tai chi.

“My idea is to reach people who are disadvantaged,” he said, “and just to help people who are stressed out and want an artistic outlet.”

Roelofs said the people who attended the tai chi class have found it to be both relaxing and invigorating.

“It gives a person 45 minutes to move gently to music,” she said. “I have found (that) if I don’t do this activity by committing to a class, I won’t do it on my own. It gives me time to pause, think, stretch and relax. It is nice that these classes welcome all ages, all incomes and abilities.”

Classes are possible through donations, Harris said. Harris also plans to create a similar program in Livingston and Merced. Since the program is still in its infancy, Harris said he is still looking for community support.

“These classes could be Monday through Friday,” he said. “It’s all about people’s participation. It’s up to Los Banos to make this happen.”

Classes are held four times a week at the Los Banos Arts Council studio, corner of Fifth and L streets. They include gentle tai chi, dance, music, photography, painting and other forms of art, and exercise. The next class will be gentle tai chi and will offered at 4 p.m. Jan. 14.

Reporter Marina Gaytan can be reached at (209) 826-3831 ext. 6562 or mgaytan@losbanosenterprise.com.

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