- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 29, 2003

Crayons, colors, clay and crafts are taken to the extreme at Crayola Works Creativity Studio. Crayola Works, one of the anchors of Arundel Mills Mall in Hanover, Md., is part retail store and part amusement park for budding artists. From the smallest tot scribbling with a crayon to a preteen practicing animation, there is plenty for every member of the family to do.

That is what Crayola had in mind when planning this one-of-a-kind store, says Crayola Works spokesman Mark O’Brien.

“This is a place where kids can sit and create,” he says. “There are programs for parents and tots, and family art night every Thursday. Best of all, we clean up.”

There are several levels of play at Crayola Works. First are the free, hands-on mini-activities mixed in among the retail products. While shopping for bathtub crayons or an easel, children can grab a piece of sidewalk chalk and scribble on the walls in the Chalk City section of the store. They can work on a computer that shows their image as if it was on a stretched piece of Silly Putty. They also can try various other paints and crayons set around the store.

There are low-priced activities, too. For a few dollars, patrons can purchase supplies for a make-and-take project, says studio manager Eric Krupkin. Some of those projects include coloring a mask with crayons from a bin featuring special-edition samples of the company’s 50 most popular colors, or painting a figurine with watercolors.

That is what Dianna Bell and her 20-month-old daughter, Mackenzie, were doing on a recent weekday morning.

“We’re making something for Dad,” Mrs. Bell says. “We’ve never been here before, but this is a good outing. Some of the moms in my mom’s group told me about it.”

The make-and-take projects are good for families who have 10 or 20 minutes to spare, Mr. Krupkin says.

“You can stop in while you are waiting to go to the movies [at the mall],” he says.

Crayola Works also features a regular schedule of family activities. Weekdays at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. there is the Parent and Tot Program. This preschool program, held in a brightly colored room, features storytime and an accompanying craft. Themes and books change weekly, and December’s offerings will be holiday related, Mr. O’Brien says. Parent and Tot programs cost $6.99 per child.

Family Art Night is a drop-in program held from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays. For $16.99, families can choose among several activities to do together, including mini-canvas paintings and no-sew pillows.

The rear of the Crayola Works store features the creativity studio, where imaginations really can get a workout. Visitors pick a project from the collection that changes monthly at the front desk. The supply kit, such as the wooden keepsake clock, jazzy jewelry or an 8-inch wooden nutcracker, comes sliding down a conveyer belt. The young artist then goes through the turnstiles and into the studio.

In the studio space, there are long tables for painting, designing, stamping, coloring and finishing the projects. The studio features an inspiration corner, where young artists can look through books to find an image they need, such as an elephant or a shark. There are staffers all around to help with the projects.

When they are done with their projects, children can take advantage of other fun studio activities. There is an old VW Beetle on which children can draw and scribble. There are computers that run art and animation software. There are animal sponges to line up in front of a camera to turn into computer animation.

The studio space also features party rooms. The rooms are a popular spot on weekends, with more than two dozen parties usually on the schedule, Mr. Krupkin says. The 90-minute birthday parties range in price from $10.99 to $19.99 per child, depending on the project they are scheduled to do, he says.

Mr. Krupkin also is expecting a big turnout for Crayola Works’ Holiday Craft Camp. The camp runs daily through Dec. 23. Campers ages 5 and older can choose from three, two-hour sessions (10 a.m. to noon, 1 to 3 p.m. or 5 to 7 p.m.). The campers can make two gift projects of their choice and wrap them while their parents shop. The $24.99 fee per child also includes juice and snack.

“Parents can hit the mall,” Mr. O’Brien says. “We just ask that they leave a cell phone or pager number.”

WHEN YOU GO:

Location: The Crayola Works Creativity Studio is in the Arundel Mills Mall, 7000 Arundel Mills Circle in Hanover, Md.

Directions: Take Interstate 95 North to Exit 43A (Route 100 east) to Exit 10A. The mall is on the right-hand side. Crayola Works is visible from the parking lot.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

Parking: Parking is free and plentiful in the mall parking lots.

Admission: Entering the store is free. Art projects vary in price from $1 (for coloring with crayons) to about $16.99 (for painting a wooden serving tray or clock).

Note: Crayola Works is a retail store featuring virtually every product made by the Crayola company. The goods are displayed in a child-friendly manner that encourages touching and testing some of the projects. There are several levels of activity at the store, including free product trials; low-priced painting, coloring and modeling clay projects that can be done quickly; and more expensive, time-consuming projects. Parent-and-tot story times are held three times daily on weekdays, and there are family nights, Friday Night Fun workshops, Holiday Craft Camp and special events for school-age children and Scout groups. The studio is also a great place to hold a birthday party, with several packages and projects available.

Information: 410/799-0400 or www.crayolaworks.com.


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