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Art camps let kids learn skills and infuse art with originality

Inspiration abounds at art camps — and that’s no surprise. But what adds to the fun is how the adults who work with kids at arts camp find themselves drawing inspiration from the kids’ free expression, and how getting involved with art leads students to grow in ways that involve far more than fingerpainting.

“For me, I like being around kids because I get inspired by their work,” says Sarah Kinn, an artist who has worked with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art’s Young Artists at Work program since its inception. “Sometimes they’ll draw a cat and it’s so cute because it doesn’t look like a real cat. I love their doodles; I love the way they’re not self-conscious yet with the way they’ll put color on the page. It’s just inspiring for me to watch them work so freely.”

The BMoCA program this summer will enroll kids in week-long interdisciplinary art programs to work with paper or Sharpies or recycled products.

At POSH, kids come in to paint with acrylics on canvas — serious materials for kids who want to get serious about doing adult painting. Classes focus on building skills and developing an understanding of the technicalities of art-making. But Lloyd Burch, co-founder of POSH, says there are lessons the kids teach that POSH instructors get to take home.

“We get a lot of inspiration from the kids. They’re fun. They’re exciting. They will try things, and once in a while you see things that are just awe inspiring or you see a kid that is just doing really, really well and it’s like, wow, this is a great thing to be doing,” Burch says. Kids impress with their skills and sometimes with their determination, too.

“I had a 3-year-old in here, and typically it’s pretty hard to teach 3-yearolds, but the mom said, ‘Oh, this one, I think you’ll find this one a little bit different,’” he says. “When you get down to [age] 3, you tend to get circles and scribbles and ‘OK, I’m done.’” But this little girl sat down, painted a cheetah when the rest of her class was taking on lions and dogs, and drew in each spot with extreme care.

“She just was a very focused little kid,” he says. “I’ve got to admit, she should be an inspiration for a lot of our adults.”

This summer, Kinn will lead a class that’s a crash course in hipster art for kids — they’ll use vinyl signs to make bags, duct tape wallets and guerilla street art.

The experience will go well beyond lessons in urban grunge, though.

“There was one week it was all boys and one little girl that came and she was really shy the first day — and I don’t blame her because there were no girls in the class,” Kinn says. “By the end of the week, because they all had this passion for art, she made friends with the boys and was comfortable and confident by the end of the week. Their love of art overrode their gender differences.”

When Lee Stayton signed up for the BMoCA Young Artists at Work summer workshop to create art on bike helmets, he didn’t yet know how to ride a bike. The kindergartener practiced every day before the camp started so when the camp finished he could ride in a parade wearing his newly decorated helmet.

“I just wanted to and thought it was a good time,” Lee says.

“It was the longest bike ride he’d taken and he just was super, super excited to participate in the camp,” says Karin Stayton, Lee’s mother. He’s been to seven BMoCa workshops, she says. He likes them, he says, because a real artist is there to help them make art.

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