The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Mar 27, 2013

A cheat sheet to St.Paul arts-and-culture summer camps

Posted by sschouweiler

With all the snow on the ground, I’m finding it hard to believe we’ll ever be going outside just in shirtsleeves again— nonetheless, it’s time to start thinking about summer. Indeed, savvy parents of school-aged kids are already deep in the process of cobbling together their plans, aware that spots in many of the plum programs tend to fill up months before summer break begins.

Thankfully, here in the Twin Cities, we have an abundance of high-quality programming from which to choose, whether you’re looking at full-time child care options or just hoping to break up the languid flow of do-nothing summer days with occasional spurts of structured activities. There are plenty of summer camp guides available to aid your decision-making – the glossies and the daily newspapers always release some in February and March. And I’m going to point you, specifically, toward some of St. Paul’s arts-focused offerings.

Photo courtesy of School of Rock

When the kids are young or if you’re looking for consistent child care coverage, general interest summer programs, like you’ll find through St. Paul Public Schools or the YMCA, are perennially popular bets. You’ll find more targeted, but still broadly conceived, cultural sampler sorts of day camp offerings at the University of Minnesota’s “Discovering ‘U’” camps  and, for older children (grades 7 through 12), through Minnesota Institute for Talented Youth’s (M.I.T.Y.) “Expand Your Mind” month-long sessions at Macalester College. The Friends School also has an array of fine and performing arts options for elementary and middle-schoolers in their week-by-week “Just for Fun” program: including workshops in jewelry design and puppet making, storytelling, guitar, photography, filmmaking and theater. You’ll find similarly wide-ranging weekly offerings at Como Zoo and Conservatory’s “Camp Como”.

Water bottle rocket, made at Leonardo's Basement. Photo by Neal Swanger, instructor of the course. Water bottle rocket, made at Leonardo's Basement. Photo by course instructor Neal Swanger

If you’ve got a Renaissance kid on your hands, whose interests tend toward intersections of art and science, check out what’s going on at Leonardo’s Basement this summer: in classes targeted toward a range of ages and interests, kids will be building (and launching!) “art rockets,” exploring and re-creating parachute designs by Leonardo da Vinci, making LEGO™ animated movies and more. Similarly, the Science Museum of Minnesota is offering a variety of hands-on art-meets-science camps as well, from classes in creating “light art fashion” to architecture explorations and “Dinosaur Science Theater.” ArtStart marries eco-minded upcycling with art-making with trash-into-treasure arts and crafts programs for all ages as well.

Photo courtesy of Northern Clay Center. Photo courtesy of Northern Clay Center

If you have a young thespian in your family, get thee to SteppingStone Theatre’s summer camps catalog: they have an array of programs that hit a sweet spot for just about every age and ability, from preschoolers to high school play veterans. If you have older children passionate about theater and music, there are a number of more specialized options to consider, most of them accessible by audition. Knight Arts-grantee Penumbra Theatre’s Summer Institute offers youths an opportunity to work alongside professional theater artists and like-minded teens to explore the power of art and activism, combining performance with the desire to effect social change. In (another Knight Arts granteeMinnesota Opera’s “Summer Opera Camp” teens will explore the arts, attending concerts and museums, and they'll also create a show from development to performance; young singers will be coached in movement, voice, and staging as they learn a new opera work and, ultimately, perform it with a small orchestra. Or, what about the Ordway’s “Triple Threat Training”? For this Knight Arts grantee's musical theater-intensive camp, young people will work with veteran theater artists to become a “triple threat," honing their skills singing, dancing and acting.

If you’ve a musician in your midst, there are both classical and pop camps in abundance, too, with summer offerings for both younger kids and teens from School of Rock, McNally Smith College of Music, Minnesota Boychoir’s “Sing Minnesota,” and Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (also a Knight Arts grantee). For cross-cultural and world music immersion, “Songs of Hope” international performance camp may be something to look into as well.

Circus Juventas. Photo courtesy of Dan Norman Photography. Circus Juventas. Photo courtesy of Dan Norman Photography

And what about arts programs centered on movement? Maybe your child is interested in breakdancing, hip hop and ballet – if so, check out the weekly dancing, tumbling, hip hop, ballet and art-making programs at Dance-n-Magic. Maybe you know a kid ensnared by the acrobatics, romance and pageantry of Cirque du Soleil. Were you aware that Circus Juventas runs a wonderful traditional circus arts summer camp for all ages, from kids of 6 to 21 years old?

Photo courtesy of SteppingStone Theatre. Photo courtesy of SteppingStone Theatre

Finally, don’t forget about the area’s discipline-specific arts centers as you explore summer programs for your family. The Textile Center, Minnesota Center for Book Arts, the Northern Clay Center, Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP) Minnesota and Highpoint Center for Printmaking — all offer camps that afford kids direct experience working with professional artists, specialized equipment and materials in a given field of interest: from paper-making to letterpress and creative writing, from throwing pots to firing ceramics in a kiln, filmmaking and photography, or knitting, weaving and other fiber arts. There’s just no reason for a creative kid to sit by the sidelines when they can learn the ropes of a craft for themselves at one of these nationally-recognized centers.

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