“Do you guys want to get kind of messy today or REALLY messy?” the instructor asked with a smile.
Knowing exactly how my four-year-old would respond, I looked around the room to see what the other kids said. The room was split 50/50—half would receive the oil-based crayons and the “messy” half (our half) colored with the chalk pastels. We picked out our aprons and began the task of covering a white and black sheet of paper in big bright colors.
Warm afternoon light spilled through the big warehouse windows of the Art Workshop in Hyde Park (located in the Funke Fired Arts building) as our teacher – and the owner, Nancy Kopp, explained the project. An instructor for more than 35 years, Nancy offered a quick background on printmaking, explaining how prints were created by the transfer of paint or ink from one surface to another.
We started covering our pages with bright colors to create the printing paper that we would use for our prints. The parents and grandparents in the classroom chatted casually with the younger artists about their designs. The kids laughed as color made its way onto their papers, their hands, their arms and eventually some of their faces.
A former public school educator, Nancy has put extensive thought behind the format of each of the classes at the Art Workshop. We were attending the “Mom/Dad and Me” class, which kicked off with a “warm-up” activity before everyone stepped over to the bean bag covered reading and free play area for a quick story.
“You can count on kids to be attentive for about one minute of each year of their life,” she told me. “In other words, a four-year-old can pay attention for about four minutes. This is a key consideration as I develop the activities.”
Most of the classes are designed for younger artists, ages 4-16, but I was psyched to learn that the Art Workshop also offers classes for older artists, such as adult ceramics or adult painting and drawing. With a new flexible scheduling program, you are guaranteed a total of eight classes in an eight-week period. If your child has to miss their regular class, they can attend any other day of the week to make it up. This can be particularly helpful when negotiating art classes with school activities and sibling schedules.
“I enjoy working with artists of all ages,” Nancy said. “I love seeing the joy that crosses their faces as they work or when you teach them something that completely changes the way they perceive the world. It’s an amazing process.”
Once we filled our pages with color, Nancy handed us a piece of plexi-glass that we covered with black acrylic paint using a brayer.
To make our print, we created designs in the black paint that we then transferred onto the colored sheets. The result was a wall-worthy design. My daughter beamed. A giant smile covered her face when Nancy presented us with the final piece framed on a large piece of construction paper.
As we spoke after the class, Nancy shared with me just how critical art can be in a child’s development. Particularly for younger children, art can offer several benefits, including enhanced motor skills, language development, decision making, cultural awareness and improved academic performance. Her classes at the Art Workshop not only open the world to different mediums and methods children might not learn about in school, they offer a fun and comfortable atmosphere in which to create. For adults, art is a creative exercise that can tap into parts of your brain that many of us don’t use during our regular work week. This can help break through linear problem-solving approaches and help us identify more creative solutions to problems.
In our home, art has always been a part of our weekly routine, but I found the Art Workshop offered more —it gave us access to supplies and expertise that I wouldn’t necessarily be able to find on Pinterest. It was also a great way to socialize with my daughter and listen to her interact with other children and parents. And the best part, we were able to leave the mess there.
If you’re interested in checking out The Art Workshop for a kid’s class, to host a birthday party, or to sneak away on Thursday night for some “me” time, check out the Art Workshop’s many class offerings here: the Art Workshop.
During the holiday season, they offer a popular Holiday Workshop, where kids can create gifts for loved ones using clay, paint, wire, wood, duct tape, fabric, felting, beads and other fun material. This is a great message to share with kids that the best gifts can’t be store bought. More on that here: Holiday Workshop Information.
In the summer, they offer several art camps. It really has something for everyone.
If you’re looking to encourage a younger artist in your home, Nancy recommends the following:
- Identify a place for your art zone. It can be the corner of a room, a closet or a laundry room—wherever you have a little extra space. You might furnish it with a dedicated desk, a child’s table or even an old coffee table, but it should be a place where your child can retreat and create and not worry about making a mess.
- Don’t feel like you need to spend a lot of money. You don’t necessarily need to buy an artist’s pad in order for kids to create. A ream of copy paper can have the same impact. Add art supplies according to their age and their ability to use them by themselves. Ages 2-4 may just require crayons, where a 10-year-old can handle markers and glue.
- Talk to kids about their creations. Compliment something that you like about the artwork, and then ask if they can tell you more about it. Art helps kids make sense of some of the things going on around them, so talk to them about the colors they used and the subjects in their art work.
As artist Pablo Picasso once famously said,
Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
Spending a few relaxing hours at the Art Workshop helps us connect to the artist in us all.