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Cool and Creative Summer Art Program for Kids: Scottsdale Artists’ School Youth Academy

Article Susan Bell | Photography Courtesy of Scottsdale Artists’ School

My husband and I met, married and still live and work in Scottsdale. We raised our kids here from preschool through the University of Arizona, including after school stints and summers at the Boys and Girls Clubs, Camel- back Country Day School and the Y.M.C.A. summer camp in Prescott.

About ten years ago, I stumbled on the Scottsdale Artists’ School and all my artistic juices, stifled since earning a Bachelor of Science in art education from Ball State University (David Letterman’s alma mater, by the way), came bubbling up. As a full-time worker bee, I could only take either evening classes on weekdays or plein air (outdoor) painting classes on Saturdays but I took them off and on for years, loving every minute. I learned to paint in oils, something I’d never done before despite the degree. My instructors were wonderful artists and teachers. They introduced me to the joys of mixing the creamy paint, picking it up with a sable brush, sweeping it onto a surface and creating an image of what I could see and feel that never, ever existed before. I was hooked.

Flash forward to two years ago when I left the world of worker bees and signed up for my first real art workshop. It was four glorious days of painting in a cool classroom during a beastly hot week in July. It was my first experience being at the school in daylight hours and during the first lunch break of that first workshop I discovered that there were kids at what I thought was a serious fine arts school for grownups! They were eating their lunches at little tables in a sunny, window-lined hall gallery talking about art and ‘stuff’ and laughing and then they all disappeared into classrooms and went back to creating their art; just like I was. For me it was a memorable introduction to the Youth Academy at the Scottsdale Artists’ School.

Started in 2004, the Academy is the kind of place my kids would have loved to go as they grew up. Our daughter could have painted in a real studio in- stead of occasionally dabbling watercolors onto paper at the patio table. Our son could have worked on building three-dimensional mixed media projects instead of drilling holes in the wall of our garage. My two kids missed the Youth Academy by a dozen years, but a couple thousand others have since expressed their individuality while they learned concepts of fine art.

The Scottsdale Artists’ School is one of the finest schools of its kind in the world, and it may well be Scottsdale’s best kept educational secret. I’ve been taught there by some of the finest professional artists in the country who have willingly shared their talent, experience and artistic secrets with me and my fellow students, some who came from other countries to study here. That this nearly 33-year-old fine arts school should nurture successive generations of artists by developing a Youth Academy for the community’s children and young adults might seem like a natural outgrowth; however, the care and feeding of the artistic spirit of kids who have grown up with computers, cell phones and rap music is no small undertaking. The Academy survives because its Board of Directors, staff and volunteers believe that, just as adults should have a world class fine arts school to feed their creativity, so should the children of our community.

Last fall, I met artist Linda Pullinsi, a professional artist (check out Linda-Pullinsi.com) with 15 years of art teaching experience under her belt when she became Program Manager of the Youth Academy a year ago. She expanded its curriculum with offerings every Saturday, instead of semi-monthly, and carved space out of the School’s historic building in Old Town Scottsdale (the former Loloma Elementary School at 2nd Street and Marshall Way) just for students.

The Academy offers instruction by professional working artists in an environment that fairly oozes the boundless creativity of the visual arts. Everywhere students look they’ll find works of art displayed and there are folks around to help them create their own. The School’s two libraries are filled with books to inspire and educate. The place itself is an inspiration.

An underground, a former storage room in the basement with big window wells was transformed into a studio. Paintings stand on easels, half-finished sculptures and ceramic creations sit on shelves, props for still life set ups and costumes for models to wear are in cupboards.

The Youth Academy’s program offers traditional fine art instruction in drawing, painting, ceramics, and 3-D design for ages 6 to 8, 9 to 14 and high school students, dedicated to “developing observations skills, technical ability and creating finished art work to encourage self-confidence, knowledge, and enthusiasm.”

During the school year, a variety of Saturday classes are available for kids ages six to 19, plus this year, Pullinsi began an Underground Art Club for teens, ages 13-19, that meets every Thursday evening. Students are given more personalized instruction and an opportunity to become a core group of serious young artists; the fine art rock stars of the future.

The Academy switches to the School’s adult workshop model of fine art instruction during summer and offers weeklong sessions (Monday through Friday) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., this year, between May 29 and August 3.

Each week has a different theme so that students can focus on areas that interest them or explore in-depth something new. In one new class offering, Desert Stories, instructors help students gather their essays, photos and artwork, weaving them together into a digital work of art using iMovie software. The summer schedule has a variety of themed programs designed to stimulate creative minds.

I wish the Scottsdale Artists’ School Youth Academy had existed when our children were young. Heck, I wish it was around when I was young. But if you have a youngster at home who is even slightly artsy, a little easily bored, and needs something inspiring to do this summer, check out the opportunities at the School. And maybe, like me, you’ll end up there, too. NsL

The Scottsdale Artists’ School is located at 3720 North Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale, 480.990.1422, www.ScottsdaleArtSchool.org.

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