The founder of the Children’s Art Studio, Nicole Brandes, recognized a need for high-quality art classes when searching for opportunities to introduce her own children to the arts. Not finding many classes she liked, she decided to open her own art studio for children. She decided that her studio would be rooted in the tradition of her own training as an artist, which emphasized a high level of production of artistic works. The resultant Children’s Art Studio is a non-profit that offers classes for toddlers through teens and does not turn anyone away for lack of funds.
Art projects for all age groups focus on contemporary art with international influences. Nicole, who holds a B.A. in Art History and a Master of Fine Arts, travels to teacher trainings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visits other children’s art studios throughout Europe to keep ideas fresh and relevant. All projects are formed around art history and classes for teens are interspersed with art history lessons to give art projects, such as paper cut-outs in the style of Matisse, historical context.
I was able to sit-in on two of the Children’s Art Studio’s classes. I attended “My Grown Up and Me in the Morning” designed for children two to three with my two-year old. When we arrived the theme for the day was set with alphabet books waiting on the table. The first of three art projects was set out for the children when we arrived and my little one was happy to not have to wait to get started. She immediately got busy cutting yarn, gluing it onto paper, and coloring with colored pencils. After about 15 minutes the instructor presented materials for the next project, using alphabet stampers, pastels, and stickers on watercolor papers. After another fifteen minutes, we moved onto the third project of the day and painted giant cut-out letters that the children used as stamps on the large white paper that had been set out for them. The last fifteen minutes of class was reserved for washing-up and a story. The constant changing of projects ensured that children never got bored of what they were doing and my daughter enjoyed all of the projects. This class was different than other art classes I have attended in that children were really encouraged to let their imaginations run wild. Rather than being presented with specific instructions about what to do and shown a sample of what a finished product might look like, children and their grown-ups are presented with materials and encouraged to do with them what they like. Projects are always centered around a theme, which might include shapes, colors, or animals. Some projects completed during class would be difficult to do at home because they involve materials you are unlikely to have at home, such as wooded shapes or clay, or because of the scale involved, such as painting on paper covering an entire table. The instructor told me that children should come prepared to get dirty. Some children arrived at class with their own smocks and baby wipes, but this is not required.
I also attended “An Introduction to Art Making” for children in pre-k and kindergarten with my five year old. This class similarly had a high production level with children again completing three different projects using different mediums. Books about bugs and some preserved bugs were set out on the table when children arrived. Children were encouraged to draw one of the bugs they saw and the teacher talked about the difference between creating art using your imagination and creating art based upon something in real life. Next, children were given hand-held mirrors to examine their faces and asked to draw self-portraits, which they later painted. For the third and final project, children worked with clay to create small bowls and then painted the bowls. The pace of the class and working on multiple projects worked well for this age group. Children never had a chance to get bored and they left the class with several works of art.
The Children’s Art Studio also holds birthday parties and camps during the summers and school breaks.
Birthday parties at the Children’s Art Studio are a great way to have a personalized party with little work involved for the parents. Birthday parties are ninety minutes long with an hour dedicated to an art project and thirty minutes for cake. During birthday parties children start with a simple “warm-up” project then move onto a project selected by the birthday child in consultation with Nicole. Party projects have included everything from building pirate ships to drawing pandas, and can be almost anything the birthday child dreams up. Parties are $400.00 for 10 children with $20.00 for each additional child. Each party is run by Nicole and at least two helpers, depending on the size of the party. Parents provide a cake or cupcakes, but everything else is taken care of by the Children’s Art Studio.
Camps are held in week long sessions for children four and up. Some camps are 1/2 day and others are full day. For full-day camps children eat lunch and have some playtime in a nearby park.
The Children’s Art Studio is held in a bright, open studio near the Tenleytown metro. Plenty of metered parking is also available. It is located near several amenities enabling parents to get some errands done during a drop-off class.
Go out and make something beautiful!
Photo by Jamie Davis Smith