In an effort to bring out the inner Rembrandts of local youths, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and the Police Activities League have joined forces to create an after school outreach program designed to cultivate interest and understanding in the arts.

The program, which began earlier this month, draws together students from local elementary and secondary schools to introduce them to the arts through an interactive combination of instruction and hands-on experiences. In a press release, SBMA’s Assistant Director of Education Patsy Hicks stated that she hopes the program will introduce the arts to youth throughout the county. She said it is important to reach kids before they reach their late teens and college years.

“The goals of the program are to introduce students to the elements of art, to expose them to a variety of styles and media, and to increase their confidence as artists and museumgoers,” Hicks said. “We hope that this first introduction to art and museums will lead to a lifelong engagement.”

Students enrolled in the 10-week program meet after school Monday through Friday. The students are then transported to the Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House on Hollister Avenue courtesy of the Santa Barbara Police Activities League, a major contributor to the nonprofit program.

At the education center, students work hand-in-hand with instructors and artists from the SBMA, teenage volunteers from Santa Barbara High School’s Visual Arts and Design Academy and local police officers alike.

The expansive curriculum includes self-portraits, mapping, book art, cultural projects and even fashion design. All of the topics are in correspondence with SBMA’s permanent collections and special exhibits.

This year’s focus is based on the museum’s upcoming exhibition “Identities,” which opens on Nov. 3. “Identities” is a collection of paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs from the 1980s and beyond that focuses on the self-consciousnesses of various cultures.

Hicks said that stressing community interaction is an important aspect of the program.

“Our aim is to give kids a sense of collaboration and community coming together to give them a powerful voice in a positive way,” Hicks said,

During the 10 weeks, students will have their art displayed in an exhibit, giving them a chance to show their work to the community.

The first of these exhibits will take place this Sunday in celebration of Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. The event begins at 1 p.m. and continues through 4 p.m., and will include art activities, performances of traditional music and dance, altar displays and refreshments. Admission is free.

While the program is still in its first year, Hicks stated that she has high hopes about continuing the service.

“We’re looking at this year as a pilot program,” Hicks said. “How can we improve and expand it? We are hoping it is a first step.”