Looking forward to fine arts camps and an artistic summer.

Camps1Summer is right around the corner. The early warm weather at the end of winter and a moderate spring has fueled an eagerness for summer and all the activities that are included such as pool days and vacations, but what about camp? OK, not every child, tween or teen is geared for a weeklong excursion to a remote wilderness camp. However, there just may be a camp for each and every child, tween and teen. It might just be closer to home and fits their interests and education, especially in the art. It might be pottery, dance, history and playwriting, improvisation and more. Keep an open mind and read on for camp examples in the metropolitan community.


April Bishop, cultural arts coordinator for the City of Leawood, says books, activities and parks are the right mix for summer. At the Oxford House, the restored 1877 schoolhouse, the Prairie Book Club meets each Wednesday in June and July. Bishop says this year’s reading will be centered on the American Girl dolls, Kirsten (1854), Addy (1864) and Kit (1934).

This year will also feature a re-enactment camp centered on Little House on the Prairie for ages 7 to 12. “We are going to be looking at those forgotten skills that were very much a part of pioneering life. It’s about hands-on experiences. The participants will also be collaborating on a script and will present their play on the last day.” The other new camp is in association with Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.


Executive Director Jeremiah Enna says many camps will address a wide variety of skill levels. “We have programs that meet the needs of students who want to be challenged.”

Like other teaching artists, Enna sees an arts camp, as with any immersive arts experience, as a confidence builder. “The arts can provide a huge benefit in growing a young person’s confidence,” he says. “It is often a non-threatening way to build talent, confidence and success. May be a young person didn’t realize he or she has a gift, but they may undercover something great.”

For the youngest set, there’s itty-bitty ballerina dance camp, Fairies of the Forest dance adventure, and drawing. For older campers, depending on their ages, they may be able to participate in hip hop camp, stuntman stage and film combat, girl power music, songwriter camp and cartooning. In collaboration and partnership with Kansas City Young Audiences, there will be two two-week musical intensives. The first is Godspell for campers 13 and older. Campers 7 to 13 might be able to participate in Jungle Book Kids. “With both our organizations heavily focused on youth and the arts, it was an easy and inspiring partnership,” he says.


Heart of America Shakespeare Festival education director Kara Armstrong says the 11 summer camps will be in the suburbs of Overland Park and Leawood plus Lee’s Summit. The teen camp will be at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. The campers are all girls at the camp in Kansas City, Kan. These campers are from 9 to 15 years old. “It’s a fun camp and full of team building and self-esteem development. More than 20 percent of the previous year’s campers return.

“Sure we will work on Midsummer Night’s Dream with the stories of love and magic and there could be a few lessons from Antony and Cleopatra such as stage combat. There is improve and interactive history. Campers get to make costumes and swords. We get
them engaged in all areas of producing a play. We are getting young people interested in the arts. We are building confidence and a sense of self. If a camper never goes on to be an actor, they still may have to someday stand up at a company meeting to share an idea with a loud, clear voice,” Armstrong says.


Cameo Ibsen, director of ballet at Ibsen Dance Theatre, is also the founder and artistic director of Ibsen Ballet Theatre – Youth Company. She and her parents, Van and Susie Ibsen, spend time year-round with children, tweens and teens.

“Most people see summer as a welcome time to take a break from the business of the year. But taking the summer off from dance class could prove more harmful than not. Just a couple of weeks without proper stretching can result in the loss of flexibility, and several weeks without dance class could cause loss of strength and technique. Many students return in the fall feeling as though they spend the first few weeks ‘catching up’ to the level they were before summer break,” she says. “If your studio offers summer classes, take them. Summer classes are usually smaller and offer all levels of dancers a perfect opportunity to advance. …”

The two-week camps center on a musical. For the youngest, there is Wackadoo Zoo; then Annie for the tweens; and Bye Bye Birdie for the older campers. Students will work directly under the guidance of teachers with degrees in theater and education. Camp classes include acting, mime, improvisation, stage-movement, dance, and creative dramatics.


Every summer the Kansas City Art Institute offers a series of weekly summer camp programs for youth ages 6-14 at both the downtown and north campuses. The program is designed so students may come in the morning only, afternoon only or all day. Offerings change each year but some examples are digital photography, drawing people, computer animation and more. New camps include fashion and jewelry classes and Claymation.

Jen Johnson, assistant director, North Campus of the Kansas City Art Institute, says this year, the day-long camps have been extended by an hour to help working parents. “It’s also for a collaborative period where students may be part of working on a collaborative sculpture. We will have different age groups working together.” Johnson says they hope camps such as Create a Fantasy World and Art Out of Food will appeal to the tweens. Most campers are in elementary and middle school, she says. “The high school intensives give a deeper and often a more dedicated time to pursue specific art forms.” Each camp will have an exhibition at the camp’s end. “What we do is often not typical. Schools may not be able to offer this sort of devotion or time to art. We give kids a chance to use their imaginations and have a good time.”


Campers who attend Kansas City Young Audiences arts camps can attend dance, music or visual arts camps as always. There are also camps that sample the arts and offer a little taste of several. Two of the two-week camps are partnerships with Culture House.

Marketing and business development director Marty Arvizu says one new camp is aimed at some of the youngest campers – 5 to 7 year olds interested in a half-day ballet experience. “These younger campers are great for the arts sampler camp too. They can work with artists in four different disciplines.” Arvizu says radio camp is back and this time for two weeks. The first is in June and the second week is in August for teenagers. This camp is taught by those actors from Right Between the Ears. “They invite a couple of the teens to travel to Lawrence to be on the air.”

About 250 campers attend KCYA camps and some of them take multiple camps. “In addition to our camps, we still keep up some of the dance classes and garage band practices.” Arvizu says all the camps end in a performance.”


Museum Educator Laura Taylor says the Toy and Miniature Museum will continue the Adventures in Learning this summer. Every Wednesday from early June to mid-August, the museum staff offers a chance for children, parents and grandparents to learn about different specific aspects of the museum. The first event June 6 is a tour of the museum’s silver collection and the chance to learn about casting. Then the June 13 event is a visit with the fine-scale miniature replica of Abraham »»
Lincoln’s boyhood home and then the visitors get to make a miniature split log bench.

Taylor says the museum’s first artist-in-residence, Lee-Ann Chellis Wessel, who specializes in porcelain, pottery, and egg tempera paintings from the Italian Renaissance, will be part of the learning experiences at the museum. One of Taylor’s favorites, the Nettie Wells Dollhouse, will be the focus of the July 18 event. Toward the end of the summer, Aug. 8, the interns who want to be museum educators will put together an Adventures in Learning.

“It’s not just art that you stand back in awe of, but an accessible collection, especially if there is something relatable as making something that resembles an existing piece in the collection here. They take a tangible remembrance home,” she says.


Some of the many YMCA camps focus on the arts including music and painting. There are themed camps for a week such as Party Like a Y Star. This will be a sort of performance camp. Super Heroes will examine local heroes and service to others. Some of the teen camps include self-expression and fine arts.

Camp Director Doug Berkel says traditional camps, teen camps and half-day specialties are part of the YMCA summer. “We are also paying attention to our middle school youth. We often lose the older elementary and middle schoolers. We want to make sure the themes are cool enough to get them interested. This is where we look at some issues that are near and dear to their hearts such as environment, nutrition and stress.”

Berkel says a new destination camp will include campers 6 to 12 years of age. They will travel daily to Camp Naish in Bonner Springs for outdoor events. Half-day camps include the culinary arts with Food Fiasco. “Our camps especially look at diversity and leadership skill building. We don’t want summer to be lost; we want kids outside and active, away from computers and T.V.”

CategoriesKC Studio Kids
Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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