The Arts Come Alive at Summer Art Camp

| August 22, 2010 | Comments (2)
summer art camp craft

A beaded creation from Summer Art Camp

Arts and crafts has long been a summer camp staple, but imagine a camp where kids paint, draw, dance, and create with professional artists in real studios and galleries. That is precisely the experience that the Oak Park Arts District Summer Art Camp offers.

The Oak Park Arts District is an organization of the myriad business located along nine blocks of Harrison Street in Oak Park just west of Austin. The businesses in the Arts District include restaurants, dance studios, boutiques and numerous art galleries. A few years ago, one of the business owners in the Arts District, Pamela Penney of Pamela Penney Textile Arts, had the idea to start a summer camp in which children ages 5 to 11 could do projects in the various studios and businesses along Harrison working with the actual artists and business owners. Now in its third year, the Summer Art Camp has tripled in size since 2008 and offers two-week, half and full-day camps with sessions in both June and August.

My 6 year old daughter recently finished a half-day session of Summer Art Camp and I was amazed at the wide variety of experiences she had in the two weeks. She made (and ate!) pizza and guacamole at Buzz Cafe; pieced together a glass mosaic at Prodigy Glassworks; shook her moneymaker at INTUIT Dance; crafted a chic pin out of old sweater scraps at Pamela Penney Textile Arts; designed a beaded figurine at Bead in Handas well as doing much more traditional art projects like drawing and painting. Needless to say, Zuzu adored art camp and came home bursting with pride at what she had produced that day. Every day was a new adventure. “Where are we going today, Mom?” she asked each morning. “I wonder what we will do there.”

In a time when school districts everywhere are cutting back their art programs, Summer Art Camp is a godsend because it exposes kids to so many different media and gives them a chance to see what sparks their interest. I was intrigued, for example, to see how much my daughter gushed about the beading and the fabric art — things she had never had a chance to do before. By working in the actual studios and galleries, the kids have experiences that their schools, which lack the specialized equipment, could never offer.  At the same time, my daughter had a unique opportunity to interact in a positive and inspiring way with men and women who make their living in the arts.  I am lucky to have a beloved aunt who is an artist, but many children grow up without knowing that a career in the arts is even a possibility.

Of course, Summer Art Camp is a wonderful experience for the artists and businesses who make up the Oak Park Arts District. Laura Maychruk, the owner of Buzz Cafe, told me that the financial boost the camp offers to the participating artists and business owners has made a world of the difference in this difficult economy. And Summer Art Camp raises the profile of these galleries and businesses in the community.

Personally, I was delighted to have the chance to finally go into some of the different businesses operating in the Arts District. I was particularly intrigued by the bead store, Bead in Hand, and happily took the fall class schedule (for adults!) that the owner offered me. Perhaps the next time you see me sporting a trendy statement necklace, I will be able to brag that I made it myself. In the meantime, the brightly-colored fabric pin that Zuzu made at Summer Art Camp will be gracing the lapel of my black blazer.

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Category: arts, Summer

About Emily: Emily is a Washington DC native now living in the near west suburbs of Chicago. A lawyer by training, she works part-time teaching at a local law school and spends most of her time taking care of her family and volunteering in her community. Emily and her husband have a daughter who is in second grade and a three-year-old son. Emily’s daughter has many food allergies, which can make birthday parties, school lunches and dining out a challenge, but she strives to keep her daughter’s life pretty normal and even fun. Emily’s son does not appear to have any allergies, just a profound aversion to the word "no." Emily’s tastes range from the serious to the frivolous. She subscribes to US Weekly and The New Yorker. She follows politics, theater, movies, television, fashion and pop culture. That doesn’t mean she actually goes to the theater or dresses fashionably, of course. Emily loves to cook more than almost anything else and she recently became an avid canner; but she doesn't garden and she barely decorates. You can read Emily’s thoughts on all these topics and whatever else comes to mind at her personal blog <West of the Loop. View author profile.

Comments (2)

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  1. Lisa says:

    wow that sounds amazing!!!

  2. Shari says:

    We have a place near us called The Center that also runs wonderful arts programs. We’re luck that our school district is adding programs, not cutting them. Still, we often take classes at The Center whenever something interests the girls. I don’t think you can ever have enough exposure to the arts.

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