Play is Good: Summer Camps and Workshops Anyone?

Yikes!

It’s hard to believe that it’s mid-late April already. Have you noticed too just how quickly the year is passing by already?

Summer and the end of the school year are just around the corner. That means it’s time to think about summer camps and workshops to keep hands and minds from that ubiquitous summer malady-boredom.

Arts camps and workshops are a refreshing alternative to or an addition to sports, band, and the usual type of camps that we send our kids to each year. But arts camps and workshops aren’t just for kids. There’s just as many options for adults too. Many have already started signups, so don’t procrastinate on registering!

Article By Joann Renner - 4/22/2024

So many organizations and groups are offering a wide array of choices this year for kids and adults…

With the pandemic finally behind us, we can fully immerse ourselves in creative social groups to our heart’s content.

One nice thing is that these camps give kids a chance to express themselves in a safe environment while they learn to embrace their creativity and have fun at the same time. If your school has had cutbacks in arts programming, the kids can benefit by getting creative enrichment in safe environments without the anxiety of graded classwork or the fear of being judged.

For adults, learning new skills, trying something new that they have always wanted to try, or honing skills that they already have, helps keep the mind sharp. Finding creative outlets opens our hearts and minds to new possibilities. It improves dexterity and fine motor functions. Best of all, in my opinion anyway, is that it gets you out of your head, serving as one way to clear feelings of anxiety and promote mental wellness. For me, painting takes me to other places and times, much like reading a good book. It helps me to forget the busyness of the outside world and find joy in the moment.

Play is good no matter what your age is, so go have fun!

*I didn’t add much in photos for this post out of respect for the kids’ privacy and I didn’t want to repost them without parental permission.

Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media

The Center is located at 1047 Shady Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232 in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The main building was once home to the Mellon family, another one of the prominent Pittsburgh Gilded Age families known for financial services, banking, and philanthropy, especially in support of the arts.

They offer various arts camps for kids ages 6-17, and cover hands-on experiences like printmaking, experimental photography, stop-motion animation, drawing and painting, digital illustration, ceramics, art of the meme, architecture, Adobe Photoshop, Forts and Secret Hideaways, Monsters Wizards and Magical Things, Recycled Robots, metalsmithing, and lots more. It makes me wish I was a kid again!

One thing that does stand out is that they offer “Pre-Camp” and “Post Camp” extended care hours where the kids are supervised beyond the actual camp hours. It is recommended that you register the kids for extended care at the time of camp registration. See the website for full information. It’s an excellent idea for busy schedules that might overlap camp times.

I’ve attended some of their other events like A Fair in the Park, and I’ve always heard good things about their programs. Their prices are very reasonable and accessible for most folks which is a big plus for budget-conscious parents. Tuition assistance is also available.

For adults, the course catalog is extensive, with just about anything creative that you can think of. Painting, drawing, metalsmithing, ceramics and pottery, film and photography, and oh so much more. The costs per course is naturally higher than the kids’ camps, but tuition assistance is also available for adults. If you are thinking of something unusual to do this summer, check them out. They have courses and workshops going all year long in case you can’t do it in the summer months.

Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media

Photo credit: Pittsburgh Center for Arts and Media website

Carnegie Science Center (I know they renamed it but it will always be Carnegie to me)

Okay, when we think of the Carnegie Science Center, we think science type stuff, right?

Science and creativity go hand-in-hand. Think Leonardo Da Vinci. Art skills build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. STEAM activities encompass the whole package, so that kids can learn in a well-rounded way that doesn’t stifle curiosity and imagination.

Most of their camps are for kids ages 4-14 years, and include lots of science stuff of course. For the creative aspects of science, they offer the BNY Mellon Fab Lab. Here campers can learn about “maker technologies” such as 3D printing, laser cutting, animation, and video game design. If you know anyone who has a Glowforge-a laser cutter used for many of the products you can find on Etsy.com, for their business, then you will be familiar with its capabilities.

I am glad to see that they offer Pre-Camp and Post-Camp Care along with Lunch Care as piece-of-mind for busy parents. Registrations are currently open.

Oh, and there is The Science Behind Pixar and Fab Lab has sessions for adults as well as the kiddos, including a session for older adults age 65+ to learn about 3D printing and other creative technology.

Camps For Creatives by TrustArts Education

The TrustArts Education Center is located in the James E. Rohr Building, 805-807 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15222 (Downtown in the Cultural District).

The summer camps and workshops are available for early childhood and ages Kindergarten through 12th grade. They do offer financial support for anyone needing help and a contact is given on the above webpage.

The topics include an early childhood camp, theatre production, arts and science camp, art exploration camp and Costumes, Cosplay, and Capers! Costume, Stagecraft, and Storytelling Camp, which my daughter would’ve loved when she was in high school. When you get to the page above, click on the main camp you are interested in and it will take you to more information about that particular camp. They don’t provide a lunch or drinks, so students will have to take along a packed lunch.

For adults they have two primary programs: Creative Conversations and ArtsMasters. Creative Conversations is where adults gather to discuss arts topics in both visual arts and performing arts. ArtsMasters is an educational outreach that provides workshops, classes, and more to the community. There’s also resources for schools and educators that are worth checking out.

Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History

The Carnegie Museums are well-known for their summer camps and you can find a wide range of interests that incorporate STEAM topics. There’s Mixing Mediums where kids can learn about collage and mixed media art. There’s Painting Lab, Eco Lab, a Weekly Art Studio, and more, all age-appropriate and where the campers can be immersed in the art galleries of the museum. Of course, there are plenty of natural science options too.

Registrations are open through early June with scholarships available as well as Pre-Camp and Post-Camp Care.

Sweetwater Center for the Arts

I’ve mentioned Sweetwater in a few other posts and there’s a very good reason to do so again. They have an incredible lineup of summer camps this year. Already some are filling up quick, so go over the list with the kids as soon as you can. They do have scholarships available to help if necessary too. If you are a member, there’s a discount code MEMBERS10 with the reminder on the link above.

Just some of the topics include culinary arts like Baking Basics, jewelry making using clay, ceramics, Women in Art, Sustainable Art Forms, Natural Pigments-using natural materials such as avocado pits to dye fabric and paper as well as making paper, creative writing, mental health and wellness, mixed media, metalsmithing, digital arts and so much more.

Camps are offered for age levels like early childhood through teen years, and there are plenty of adult options too.

This would be super convenient for those in the North Hills, Wexford, West End, even the North Side. Sweetwater is highly respected as a safe and welcoming space with high quality instruction and inclusion is a top priority.

Assemble: A Community Space for Arts and Technology

Assemble is an amazing organization located at 4824 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224 in the Garfield neighborhood. They do offer Pre-Camp and Post-Camp Care, and financial assistance is available. Garfield residents can register for free!

Their summer camps are for first grade through ninth grade.

The offerings are STEAM oriented, incorporating multiple fields like Eco Explorers, film crew, Passport Around the World, animation, and cosplay.

If you’re not familiar with cosplay, it’s a hobby where a person of any age can create a costume to recreate a favorite pop culture character such as a superhero, Star Wars, or anime. My son and daughter did this for several years until just recently. All parts of the cosplay are usually handmade including sewing the clothing, making the fake weapons and accessories. Sometimes a wig or specialty items are purchased, but it can get really pricey. Only don’t call it a costume to the kids, call it a cosplay or you’ll get the biggest eye roll you’ve ever seen!

WQED Film Academy

This film academy would be excellent for teens considering film production as a career.

WQED is located in the Oakland neighborhood between the CMU and Pitt campuses at 4802 5th Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213. The courses are held in their studios. Scholarships are available, and sessions are actually offered in the summer, fall and spring. So if one doesn’t work out for scheduling, another might work better for you and your child’s needs.

There is an in-person option and virtual learning is also possible. The course covers the basics of digital media arts such as storytelling, camera skills, audio, lighting, and digital editing. There’s hands-on learning, using the latest technologies and teaching the students teamwork, an essential skill for filmmaking. They then create a short film project at the end of the course.

This is for ninth through twelfth grades.

The students can continue to build their skills by applying to the Teen Film Crew. Point Park University is offering scholarships to some students who go through the program. See their website for more information on this awesome opportunity.

Pittsburgh Glass Center

The summer youth programs are primarily for teens, but there are options for ages 5+ and middle-schoolers. PGC is located at 5472 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15206. They recently renovated their facility into a state-of-the-art center and are one of the top glass-making educational organizations in the US.

The workshop for ages 5+ is for the family to enjoy together. The middle-schooler program is an after-school one, and there are different workshop options for teens in sixth through twelfth grade.

Scholarships are available.

This is a unique skill set that kids won’t get in their regular school experience. Teamwork and communication skills are also taught since glasswork usually requires more than one person creating it.

The Irma Freeman Center for the Imagination

The Irma Freeman Center is a unique facility with a full range of arts services, with a focus on education and diversity. They are located at 5006 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15224.

They have some unusual camp offerings that other venues are not as likely to have. Some options are making miniatures, musical theater, found object sculpture, architecture and city planning, creating comics, art using natural materials, martial arts, making books, murals, music and yoga circus. The prices are more affordable for some folks, with financial assistance available.

It looks like most camps are for ages 6 and up. Check out the particular camp you are interested in for more information.

Dot and Line Art Studio

Dot and Line is a studio in Mt. Lebanon at 311A Beverly Rd., 2nd Fl..

They offer art-making camps for ages 5 through 13 years old, with an emphasis on visual arts. The kids get to try different materials and techniques while having a ton of fun (sure looks like it in the photos). They even have an art show where families get to visit and see their creations just like in a gallery. There’s even a class about puppets!

It’s definitely worth checking out.

Other Options

Many smaller galleries and arts groups are offering summer camps and workshops also. For a list of camps with other interests like music, sports, and academics, go to https://www.kidsburgh.org/ .

These groups are offering summer camps and workshops for kids, youth and adults. Please visit their websites for more information.

My hope is that you found this list helpful as you plan summer activities for your family or even yourself. All of these spaces offer a safe and fulfilling environment for learning and exploring creativity, teamwork, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills. Creativity is needed in education and the future workforce. Technology, science, and creativity go hand-in-hand.

Creativity makes learning fun!

*I don’t use AI for my writing, it’s all me! My contact is [email protected] .

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