Fine Arts Camps: Promoting Fun and Skill Building Through Art

Photos courtesy the participating organizations

Arts summer camps are suitable for those children, tweens, teens and even a few adults who want to enhance their skills in artistry such as pottery, dancing, ceramics, painting, drawing, sculpture and more diversified skills and talents. Other possibilities include camps focused on theater, photography and computer animation. For the most part, teachers are working artists who understand the drive to create. The following camps are fine arts focused, fun and active where young artists and stars can grow and mature in their favorite fine art or try out one.

Lawrence Arts Center

Director of Programs and Partnerships Margaret Weisbrod Morris says the Lawrence Arts Center offers programs for children from pre-kindergarten all the way through high school. There is also an arts based preschool. Morris says the center has also added art to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math movement and now calls the movement STEAM.

The STEAM camps look at such subjects as space, the planet, Myth Busters, the World of Oz and superheroes. “The idea is that within this content, there are artistic principles. As an example, the Oz camp looks at principles of energy, force and motion, along with weather and climate studies. Artistic principles include creative movement, character development and cartography. Students actually get to map their own yellow brick road or recreate the story with flying monkeys and Munchkins. During BOXico City, campers will learn about urban planning and green design.”

In the summer of 2011, center staff created Arts Institutes aimed at middle school and high school students. These art classes for older children make explicit the connection between art and scientific innovation, classical understanding of the human form, the invention of perspective, early printing methods, fundamental animation techniques, theories of movement, and art foundations.

“The elementary programs focus on innovation and creativity. As the campers get older, the skills become more about self-direction and initiative, communication and developing critical skills. We are also offering a two-week intensive for high schoolers to help prepare portfolios. No matter the age, a participant will find a chance to be immersed in the arts. It’s a learning environment that is not as restricted as a school setting. I strongly believe the next Steve Jobs will come from a program like this,” Morris says.

Camp Shakespeare

The Bard of Avon awaits even the youngest camper during this year’s Camp Shakespeare, organized by the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival. Camp Shakespeare programs offer summer arts adventure for young people ages 5 – 18. Education Director Ashlea Christopher calls the camp Shakespeare Exploration, aimed at older campers, 14-18, a more in-depth acting workshop. This conservatory-styled camp includes work highlighting vocal, physical, and acting techniques used in performing Shakespeare.  Campers will focus on acting exercises, text work, rehearsal and performance of monologues and scenes.

Camp Shakespeare improves reading skills and concentration. Campers rehearse their own work for a performance of scenes, sword fights, and a shortened version of the Festival’s 2013 play, As You Like It, on the Festival stage in Southmoreland Park. “We even have older students who are returning as camp interns. They even bring back the swords they made. Combat training, no matter the age, is always exciting.” This year’s play will be set in the Summer of Love so Christopher expects some crafts to be built around the theme such as love beads. “Costume creating is also popular. I can see ponchos too,” she says.

“There has been proof that those who participate in the arts will excel. Arts camps can inspire creativity. Look at Shakespeare and see how many new words we learn. These vocabulary words find their way onto standardized tests. Plus they learn that what Shakespeare wrote more than 400 years ago is still relevant – love, heartache, friendship and more.”

Oxford School House City of Leawood Fine Arts

How about finding a program that encourages reading? At the Oxford School House in Leawood, the weekly reading club meets on Wednesdays where they read a story of historical fiction and do a related activity such as a craft or game. Cultural Arts Coordinator April Bishop says she may be leaning toward Tom Sawyer too. “The kids are at the schoolhouse most of the morning,” she says. “They can come one week or all and no reservations are necessary.”

They also offer monthly American Girl doll events. The kids can bring their dolls. Each session is about a specific doll and the kids learn about her life and times. They hear a story generally about the girl’s education and then they make a related craft. American Girl Doll Series will also continue with Samantha, Kirsten and Molly.

Miller Marley school of Dance and Voice

Shirley Marley has owned and operated Miller Marley School of Dance and Voice for 50 years. In that time, her faculty and she have produced actors and dancers who have gone on to Broadway and Hollywood. Miller Marley’s Summer Intensive is coming up in late August for two weeks, Aug. 19-22 and 26-29. Where else but at Miller Marley could a dancer study with a Broadway star, an alumnus teacher and nationally recognized dancers and choreographers from across the country?

Miller Marley School Director Brian McGinness says the school doesn’t really slow in its classes. “We train year round. We have performing companies that start at 9 a.m. and dance until noon. Some kids then get lunch and return to dance until 8 p.m. Our students appreciate the chance to devote themselves to dance during the summer. It’s a positive environment.”

Kansas City Young Audiences

“We are trying to present some new offerings for teenagers,” says Arts Education Director Kara Armstrong. “There’s Teen Hip Hop Studio Express; it’s a class aimed at 13 to 18 year olds. Then there’s Teen Radio Theatre Camp, Advanced Stage Skills including Combat/Directing and Let’s Put on a Show: It’s a Mystery. In music, we offer Teen Garage Band.”

Another plus for this year involves an extended day option. Armstrong says camp will continue in the afternoon with structured projects centered on a theme such as fairy tales, animal stories or magical lands. “More structured arts time appeals to parents. Maybe their child is not a morning person or on a swim team that practices early. This allows for engagement.” Other popular camps include the Arts Sampler where campers experience visual and performing arts.

Armstrong hopes parents and kids consider an arts camp. “A child may blossom in the arts or perhaps this might be a safe place to try a particular art form. They get to engage with peers who want to be here. The pursuit of the arts can aid in learning collaboration, physical wellness, improve reading … the whole picture of the arts can benefit young people. They can learn skills such as critical thinking and communication. They are life skills that transfer. Just think about your child gaining the ability to promote an idea or lead a team project because they got the chance to do so at summer camp.”

Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

The Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp may be a little different from the typical summer fine arts camps. This camp is open to students from high school through professional players. Mark Wood says even a few accelerated middle schoolers have been invited. “Basically we have players from 14 to their 80s who join us,” he says. “This will be our fourth year in Olathe at MidAmerica Nazarene University. It really is an amazing place to play.”

Wood has traveled the world with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and now offers up Electrify Your Strings! (EYS) is a music education program that gives students, teachers, and local communities a high voltage dose of rock into a school’s music education program. He comes in as well as other guest teachers such as classical violinist Rachel Barton-Pine teaches classes in thrashing, which is learning some of the most challenging and fun riffs to favorite metal tunes. Wood calls her “a queen of the Viper and one of the top five violinists touring today.” His wife Laura Kaye, who handles all the vocal teaching, will come in as well as their son and drummer Elijah.

“We want to create an environment that not only has participants gaining from a mentor, but also from the interaction with each other,” he says. “That is confidence building. I also want to see participants looking at technology in computer labs and working on compositions. I had a vision that someday I wanted a camp built on integrating technology with the historic landscape created by a 400-year-old history of classical music. Of course, it’s fun to rock out to the Beatles and Zepplin.” Participants also build an electric violin.

At the end of the camp, the Woods watch their family of musicians grow by about 150 students. “Sure we get campers from all over and we became a melting pot. The other joy is in celebrating the joy that is magic. You can’t predict when we are creating beautiful music, art or dance, when and how inspiration will occur. We get to put all these pieces and integrate them into our soul, spirit and intellect.” At the end of each day, the participants and instructors have concerts which the public can attend for a small price.


Here is a collection of just some of the many Summer Art Camps available in the Kansas City area. There are camps that run half days, two days, four days, or two weeks. There are classes and events that make the summer enjoyable. These camps specialize in art, crafts, music, dance, theater and writing and can be found all over the metropolitan area. Just visit the Web sites to learn about the camps, registration forms and fees.

Act One – Academy of Christian Theatre

Barstow School

Beth Shalom

Blue Springs Summer Day Camp

Blue Valley Recreation
(Camp Center Stage)

Camellot Academy


Camp Wood YMCA

Camp Wornall


Christian Youth Theatre

Coterie Theatre

Creative Arts Academy

Culture House Arts Academy

Dave’s Gymnastics

David Smart Summer Jam
Guitar Camps

Eagle Gymnastics

Earnest Shepherd Memorial Youth Camp

Emerald City

Gallery Off Broadway

Heart of America Shakespeare

Heartland Music Academy

Ibsen Dance Theatre

Jackson County Parks & Rec

Jewish Community Center

Johnson County Community College

Johnson County Parks & Recreation

Kansas City Art Institute

Kansas City Ballet

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

Kansas City Parks & Recreation

Kansas City Jazz Camp

Kansas City String Quartet Program

Kansas City Writers Group

Kansas City Young Audiences

Lawrence Arts Center

Leawood Parks & Recreation

Lee’s Summit Parks & Recreation

Lyric Opera

Maranatha Academy

Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp

Martin City Melodrama

Mattie Rhodes Art Center

Mercury Gymnastics

Metropolitan Community College

Miller-Marley School of Dance & Voice

Music House School of Music

Music Theatre for Young People

Notre Dame de Sion School

Paint Glaze and Fire

Pembroke Hill School

Pulse Performing Arts Center

re.ACT Co.

Red Star Studios

Rockhurst High School

St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School

St.Teresa’s Academy

St. Thomas Aquinas High School

Salvation Army

Shawnee Mission Summer Programs

Starlight Theatre

Theatre for Young America

Theatre of the Imagination

Toy & Miniature Museum

Trilogy Cultural Arts

United Dance


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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