Museum Educator Beth recently lead a three day Art Camp at CMNH for children ages 5 to 9 years old. The goal of the camp was to educate the campers about some of history’s greatest artists while allowing them the opportunity to create in the various styles of the artists they were learning about.A sculpture takes form!
Beth, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History with a Minor in Fine Arts from Plymouth State University, planned Art Camp over the last few months in the rare times she wasn’t interacting with families in the museum or launching new art projects for visitors to work on in the museum’s Muse Studio.
Narrowing the Focus
“Initially, I had a lot of ideas for lessons and projects, but I needed to take a step back and make sure the lessons were something all the campers – some of whom were almost five years apart – could conceptualize.”“Can you make sure to get a picture of this flower that I drew?”
But how does one decide which artists to cover when you only have three days?
“One of my hopes was that I could shed some light on some amazing artists that they wouldn’t necessarily be learning about in school yet,” says Beth.
“Of course,” she continues. “I also wanted to get them excited about learning about art as well as the whole process of creating art.”
“But narrowing down the list of artists we’d cover proved to be quite difficult,” admits Beth. “My list could have been much longer, but again, remembering the age of the children and what they’d likely respond to the strongest helped a great deal. All the artists that were chosen were well known, influential people who were revolutionaries in the art world at their respective times. Part of winnowing the list consisted of focusing on specific art movements that the children could comprehend and be inspired by. Yes, some of it was bound to be over their heads, but I was confident that the core concepts and ideas would not be lost on them. Ultimately, I felt that Impressionism and Cubism were movements that they would be able to understand. And, of course, I knew Pop Art would be something they could have a lot of fun with.”
Had camp been longer, Beth has a pretty clear idea what other artists would have made the cut.
“I feel like I could have taught that camp everyday,” she admits. “It took me back to my college days, learning about a different artist each day. Jackson Pollock would have been great to teach the kids – with myriad directions we could have gone in. Jenny Holzer, who is still alive, focuses on text as art. She’s brilliant. Mark Rothko, a tortured man and a controversial artist, focused on color and emotion which the campers easily could have tapped into. Wassily Kandinsky, whose paintings have a clear childlike quality, would have been a lot of fun. Marcel Duchamp’s style of ready-made art could have been great and the I have to think the kids really would have been wowed with some of Salvador Dali’s pieces.”Jackson Pollack, “Image Number 8″ (1949)Jenny Holzer, “Survival” (1985)Mark Rothko, “Blue and Grey” (1962)Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition VIII” (1923)Marcel Duchamp, “With Hidden Noise” (1916)Salvador Dali, “The Persistence of Memory” (1931)
The Final Five
Ultimately, Beth’s final list of artists for Art Camp were Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. The campers had some familiarity with the eclectic group.DegasMonetVan GoghPicassoWarhol
“I believe all of the kids had heard of Picasso,” Beth says. “His name was definitely known by them. They had a harder time identifying his works. Conversely, they all seemed to recognize Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’, but did not know the name of the artist. The names Monet, Degas and Warhol were a little foreign to them. A handful of the kids said they had seen some of their respective pieces when I showed them examples, but did not know the artist responsible.”
Despite her enthusiasm and extensive knowledge of the subject matter, Beth was still worried at the start of camp. Would the campers’ have a difficult time focusing on learning about and creating art when they’re based inside a children’s museum?Monet, “The Japanese Bridge” (1899)Water Lilies in the style of MonetColorful Bridge inspired by MonetWatercolor water lilies in the style of Monet
“I knew Art Camp would be a challenge because most children in that age range can be antsy and eager to play on a normal day, let alone when there’s a loud, bustling museum outside of the classroom walls – especially if they don’t already have a desire to sit and create on their own,” Beth shares. “My worries were that they wouldn’t be as enthusiastic as I was. I worried that it would start to feel like ‘work’ – which I know technically it is – but I didn’t want it to come across like it was a chore. I wanted the kids to see how passionately I felt about the art and about teaching it to them. I was so relieved that my fears were unfounded and I was lucky to have such a great group of kids, several of which were wise beyond their years!”Van Gogh, “Three Sunflowers” (1888)3-D Flowers in clay pots, inspired by Van GoghFurther painting and decoration of the Van Gogh-esque flower pieces
By the end of the camp, each camper had compiled a full portfolio of artwork to share with their family and friends. Beth was pleased by the generally enthusiastic approach the campers had to learning about so many different artists and styles.Degas, “Fin D’Arabesque” (1877)Pop-Up Ballerina inspired by Degas
“I was delightfully surprised by the enthusiasm for the subject matter,” Beth says. “They all seemed eager to learn, eager to create, and open to doing something different.”Warhol, “No Title” (1967)The campers black and white “Warhol-ized” portraits before they painted them, flanking two of Warhol’s most famous works
See a short video of the campers paintings of their own handprints in the style of Andy Warhol.
“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”Picasso, “Woman in Hat and Fur Collar” (1937)The Picasso inspired, “A Woman’s Face”Another Picasso inspired portrait
“When parents have an interest in getting their children into the arts it makes me so happy. With so much funding for the arts being cut in schools these days, it’s important for parents to realize the importance of providing an environment for your children to express themselves; a place to get messy and let them be who they are. That’s the magic of art.”
Despite three full days of Art Camp, it’s something that happened near the end of the program that will stay with Beth the longest.
“On the last day of camp, during our ‘free draw’ time, one of the campers approached me and asked me if I could write down all of the artists we learned about because she wanted to do further research about them and their art when camp was finished. She made my heart melt and I was so proud of the clear connection she had made to the art. It’s an experience like that that makes it all worth it.”CMNH Art Camp – February 2014
Be sure to check out the video below for some brief words from a few of our campers about their Art Camp experience!