Summer Through a Screen

This summer I had to approach the Decorative Fine Arts camp with a new approach. Thanks to the global pandemic, camp was going to have to be online, and inspired by a few supply kit options I had seen in the past I immediately started thinking of ways to create a camp that came in a box, or at least a camp that came complete with everything a camper would need in order to complete each activity. I had this idea that families who love Glen Echo, live close by, and want to support the park, would be willing to drive over on a Sunday in order to pick up materials. And thankfully, they were!

So just to give you an idea. The camp experience came in three parts: materials, zoom and videos. Each Camper would receive a box of all of the art materials they would need (and a few extra treats!), as well as paper instructions, and a bonus project. With that box they would also be emailed a link to instructional videos, and there was one for each day of the week. Those are hosted here on my website on a password protected page called “Box Videos”. Finally, we would also meet on Zoom to doodle and draw together. I also answered questions and gave extra tidbits of advice for each project. My hope for this camp was that each camper would be busy for approximately 45 minutes-2 hours a day, for 5 whole days! The two additional camps I designed after creating the Decorative and Fine Arts Camp in a box followed the same structure, and you can see more about them below.

As I write this I am currently teaching my 8th week of camp. It has been an incredible experience. It has not been a lucrative endeavor, but it has helped me stay connected to the park and to the families and campers I adore! It has also meant that I will be able to re-open in person next summer, God willing.

I also ended up developing a box version of my Carousel of Animals Camp for slightly older kids. This was a HUGE success, especially because I was sent the most beautiful images of final products.

And Finally I was able to create basically the camp I wanted for my 3 year old daughter: the Beachy Art Bundle! It was a camp for the youngest campers and I really enjoyed watching my daughter do it, especially because her incredibly talented pre-school teacher hosted live story times for this camp. I was only in the instructional videos, and was a mom of a camper the rest of the week. I was so impressed with how this camp showed me some of the possibilities for a virtual preschool experience. I had previously been a bit skeptical that it could be more than a zoom call but thanks to the talented Miss CAT it was a blast!

Thank you ALL who have supported this endeavor! It has been fun, and really lightened the overall mood for me this summer. I hope to see all of my campers again (in-person) soon!

Annual Art Show

What better time of year than the day after the annual art show! It’s like, phew we made it! Below you can see some of the wonderful artwork, not only my students but my wonderful colleagues’ students as well! Also, you can see the beautiful floral arrangements and decorations done by one of our parent volunteers. She has a background in interior design, and is truly incredible!


Even More Carousel!

Here are the final products of a week of very hard work. These students worked carefully and without much time. I am so proud of them and their finished works of art!

More Carousel

These pictures illustrate the intense process that the middle school and high school students went through to make their amazing sculptures. For the large scale animals it was a day of wrapping chicken wire around the armatures and creating the form, followed by papier-mache and then paint. For the mini carouselers it was modeling modeling modeling and finally painting all the pieces of the carousel before it could be assembled with hot glue.

The beginning of the Carousel of Animals

This past week was a break from my 9 weeks of elementary aged campers and instead it was a week of large scale sculpture classes with 12-16 year old artists. This camp was called Carousel of Animals.

I had 17 students ranging in age from eleven and a half to sixteen going on seventeen. They arrived at 9am Monday morning, and right away I had them find a seat at the tables where I had laid out paper and pencils. Once everyone had arrived the camp director, Sinclair Hamilton, and I spoke to them describing the activities and possibilities available to them that week. They would either be creating a large scale sculpture of an animal using chicken wire and papier-mâché or they would be making a miniature carousel using modeling clay, dowels, and cardboard.

After our introduction we took them to the Carousel, Glen Echo Park’s only ride still working, built in 1921. The Carousel was closed for business Monday but we had previously arranged that a park ranger let us in. First, I had all of the artists draw the carousel animals from observation. They drew an entire animal, and then a portrait or close-up of one part of an animal. After they finished those drawings they began to draw an animal that they would like to make. Either for their small carousel or for their large papier-mâché sculpture.

Afterwards we had lunch, and student spent the second half of the day turning their sketches into large scale drawings. We only had three campers interested in creating minature carousels so they spent the second half of the day creating wire armatures for their modeling-clay sculptures.


Here are some images from last week in Saturday Art School Ceramics. Not only did we have students on the wheel, but we were doing drop molds AND glazing. I am looking forward to getting back to SAS Ceramics this week after our short Spring Break.

Middle School in Sunset Park

This week I substituted for one of the classes provided by the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s after school art program called smartARTS. I traveled down to a middle school in sunset park. The first thing I did upon arrival, after collecting supplies and setting up the room was to collect my students. I went down to the schools auditorium and amongst chaos somehow found a group of students who looked at me suspiciously. I made the mistake of asking the students if we were supposed to wait for everyone or if we just all met in the classroom. I got two different answers and decided that the one that sounded less fun for them i.e. wait for everyone, was most likely the right thing to do. In my experience if you want to mess with a sub, it’s best to have your stories straight. When we arrived in the classroom I could tell that there was little to no interest to telling me what assigned seating was. Half of the students seemed to go directly to a seat while others lingered with mischievous looks on there faces, apparently sizing me up seeing if I would notice if they sat somewhere else, or if their compatriots would tattle…

“No assigned seating guys!” I announced I was not about to waste time and energy interrogating a group of middle school students, who I had just met. “I don’t know where you usually sit but since I am here today, and I don’t know your assigned seats you may sit where-ever there are art supplies, thank you.”

This got everyone to a seat almost immediately. That felt good. I felt like I was in charge, and so did they. I have found that using a super loud and overly confidant voice, and choosing to be serious about art but not so serious that I can’t make jokes, gives these older students less chances to push my buttons and more chances to connect with me or at least laugh at me on my terms. As it turned out, this was an amazing and kind group of New York city public school middle schoolers… a rare occurrence.

I followed the lesson plan that had been given to me which was a lesson that focused on telling a story through images. Awesome! I could bring in my love of the Zip Zap Zoom! class.

We began by testing out each of the 4 types of pencils 2B 2H HB and 4H. We made gradients, and labeled them. Then we looked at photos in sets of twos. These photos were from the early 1900’s according to the teacher who gave them to me. Each student took a page, and with two or three sentences they wrote about what was happening in these photos, as if they told a story, and then, if they had to complete this story, what would it be about? What would the 3rd frame be?

After that we made quick thumbnail sketches of a three panel story of our own. I did an example where a lonely man sees what he thinks is his dream girl, but when he gets close, she turns out to be an evil witch! I saw a few students follow my example and create similar stories. It was adorable because with middle school students you sometimes forget that they are still children, because they are trying so hard to act like adults.

Other students, mainly the girls, created genuine love stories about finding true love or asking the boy of your dreams if he likes you back. It was over-all a very fantastic subbing experience!

Scratching, Mushing, Adding, Subracting

This is an example of my ceramic students hard at work. Here you can see students working in pairs at the slab rolling station. Using communication and asking each other “are you ready?” before they begin, we learn that some art takes team work and more than two hands.

We used tools to add and subract from our tiles. When students came in each of them had a pre-rolled tile that was theirs to practice with before they began decorating their final tiles.

Shy and Nervous

This past week I substituted for a 11-13 year old drawing, painting, and printmaking class. Unfortunately it was their first class of the semester, so not only did I have to set the tone for a class I wasn’t going to teach but everyone was late, due to some confusion. None the less I think the class went amazingly well, because as it often is with teenagers and tweens, they are so self-conscious the first few classes that they often say very little or nothing at all. (Very different from my 5 year old “Art Around the Worlders”) So I had the floor. I explained why I thought this class was important for their critical thinking. “Whether or not you plan on becoming a professional artist one day, everyone should challenge themselves to think visually,” I told them, “we are exercising our brains!”

We began with bookmaking. I stole the passport idea from my AAW class, and we made passport sketchbooks. Then as an icebreaker we went around the room and named a state in the United States and gave one or two facts we had heard about it. To my surprise almost everyone was audible when giving their response. I still repeated each answer louder and in a more flamboyant way just to make sure people were paying attention. After that I did a demonstration on how we were going to create abstract drawings. We took all of the elements of our day so far and created visual maps.

Our final critique consisted of students hanging up their work and writing a note beneath their comrads artwork on small scraps of paper I had hung up. Half of the students signed themselves out and the rest were picked up by their parents.

*One fun thing I learned about these students was that half of my class was either from Trinidad or had parents who were. I think this is because this class took place at Pratt Institute, and a lot of my students came from a Fort Greene school that has a large Trinidadian population.

Pinchy Animals

This project involves measuring out a  pound of clay and then creating an animal without ever detaching any piece. The objective for the student is to learn more about the possibilities of the clay and its physical properties and limitation. So what I did for this lesson was disguise the objective as a challenge to each individual student. I told them that they were being asked to make an animal as best they could without making any new attachments, only by pulling and pinching and adding texture, could they make their animals. I think they came out fantastic!

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