Ellie Cohen, 11, says she definitely prefers Camp Arena Stage to her art class at Bancroft Elementary in Columbia Heights.
“Our art teacher at school makes us do spelling tests,” she says.
Director of Art for D.C. Public Schools Paula Sanderlin says the District “recognized deficiencies in arts programming,” and says an additional $2.5 million was allotted this past year specifically for art. Still, elementary school students typically spend only 30 to 45 minutes a week in art class, leaving many children wanting more.
“Public school has such a limited amount of time, so the amount they can get into it is a lot different,” says Angeline Szoka, an assistant at Claymation Camp, one of the many short camps offered at Glen Echo Park. Each week a group of campers creates the set and characters for an original short movie.
Instructor Andrew Morgan says that it takes about two hours to produce a minute of film, but the 15 campers seated around the set waited patiently to record voices and sound effects for their characters.
Even children in private and parochial schools are looking to summer for better arts programming.
Anthony Brown, 9, says he never made anything in art class this past year at Landover’s Jericho Christian Academy like the colorful caterpillar puppet he made one day at Glen Echo’s Puppetry Company.
Allan Stevens, his instructor and co-founder of the Puppetry Company, has been teaching a puppetry class for children for 24 years. The weeklong program includes projects such as scarf marionettes and fuzzy animal hand puppets, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s current production.
“[At school] we just make stuff from paper. They just give us two sheets and tell us to put it a certain way, and then she goes through the steps. We all draw the same thing,” Anthony says.
This is just the sort of “cookie-cutter” art that Tamar Hendel, director of the Create Arts Center in Silver Spring, says she tries to avoid. Create Arts also houses an art therapy program, so instructors at this summer’s two-week camp sessions — which include classes in pottery and weaving — are sensitive to each child’s growth and development as an artist.
Clay Harris, who teaches cartooning at the Create Arts Center, says art is “a good way [for children] to talk about their problems without actually talking.”
But don’t think that just because they’re young, the art is filled with pure intentions.
As soon as Elevator Breakdown heard a journalist was visiting the DayJams session, at least one future rock star perked up with visions of fame.
He shouts across the room, “Matt Stentson says, ‘Hi, Mom.’ ”
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