Jada Eyler, 9, of York City shows the finished artwork she made for her mom during YorkArts Art in the Parks program at Lincoln Park Thursday. The program,
Jada Eyler, 9, of York City shows the finished artwork she made for her mom during YorkArts Art in the Parks program at Lincoln Park Thursday. The program, which has been running for 20 years, continues through Aug. 16 at various York City locations and is free to kids. (Steven Goeller photo)

Not even the music of an approaching ice-cream truck could break Miranda Coon's focus.

The 5-year-old York City girl was too busy coloring the shapes she'd drawn on a giant sheet of white paper, distributed to kids in Lincoln Park by YorkArts volunteers in orange shirts.

Miranda's dad, Terry Coon, stood above his three kids as they worked Thursday.

"I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid," he said. "Maybe I'd be a better artist. Can't even draw a stick figure."

For 20 years, YorkArts has been hosting the Art in the Parks program in different sections of the city throughout the summer. The 2013 tour kicked off in June and continues through Friday, Aug. 16.

"I like that you get to, like, explore stuff," said Cassidy Eyler, 8, as she worked on her watercolor painting. "It's like you're being kind of like an artist and getting better at it."

A traveling program: Each week, YorkArts moves the program to a different section of the city, usually in a park or housing community.

On Thursday, program coordinator Roxanne Hotaling roamed the playground, asking kids on jungle gyms to consider picking up a paintbrush. Later, with kids sprawled out in groups on the grass, she challenged them to think about art.

"One thing that's exciting about color is it's a way to show how we feel," she told them.

Making it 'fun': Mindy Christian, YorkArts' director of programs, said she got involved with Art in the Parks as a volunteer coordinator when she was in college 18 years ago.

She said she remembers dressing kids up in old T-shirts and unleashing them to cover wood panels in paint in a style reminiscent of artist Jackson Pollock.

"We try to slip in a little bit of art history in for them as well," Christian said. "We make it fun."

For some kids, it's one of the few times they get to express themselves creatively, she said. Cuts to art programs in schools have made exposure to art even more limited.

"Kids don't have a lot of opportunities to have even art supplies at home," Christian said. "I've had kids when it's their first time using scissors."

Upcoming sessions: The free program continues this summer for three more weeks. It's open to anyone but geared toward younger kids.

Art in the Park will move to Penn Park, 100 W. College Ave., this Monday to Friday; the Wellington Housing Community, 780 E. King St., from Monday, Aug.. 5 to Friday, Aug. 9; and the Parkway Housing Community, 140 Willis Lane, from Monday, Aug. 12 to Friday, Aug. 16.

Each session starts at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. There's no need to sign up ahead of time.

"Almost every kid loves art, especially when they get a chance to hold crayons, paints and brushes," said Kevin Lenkner, YorkArts' executive director.

After 20 years, the Art in the Parks program is serving a new generation. Many former students are now parents bringing their kids to participate, Christian said.

"It really blows our mind when we see these kids from way back then," she said. "We've gotten kids over the years that from Art in the Parks program have come down to the gallery and have helped out with volunteering."

-- Erin James may also be reached at ejames@yorkdis patch.com.