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Creativity Abounds for Westport Youth

Known as an artists' colony, summer programs and camps in town educate and encourage the next generation.

Summer is a great time to relax, play outdoors and get creative in a low-key environment where the emphasis is less on the “product” and more on the process of having a good time.

Over the next couple months, Westport youth will have plenty of opportunities to stretch their imaginations and play artistically.

This weekend's Fine Arts Festival on Main Street will feature a special Children's Zone, hosted by .

“Come out and make multi-media collages, guitars inspired by Picasso and fans that will help us all stay cool,” said Education Director Danielle C. Den.

These are a few of the projects designed by youth and their parents during the organization's seasonal WACky Family Days held several times a year at the Riverside Avenue art gallery.

This summer, “WACky Family Day Goes Green,” said Ogden. On Sunday, July 31, from 2 to 4 p.m., families are invited to participate in creating environmentally aware projects.

In partnership with lead sponsor Melissa and Doug and the , children will have the chance to make potted plant sculptures. Artist Andy Levinson will help them to make portraits using natural objects, and Martha Bloom, another artist-in-residence, will facilitate a community art display, inspired by the current WAC visual arts exhibit, which features drawings and collage made by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in preparation for two, large scale public art installations.

On a smaller scale, campers will be part of WAC's own community installation by creating unique flags that will be strung outside the Art Center's entrance way. Admission for WACky Family Day is $10 for the child. Adults and children under age 2 are free.

The Westport Arts Center is located at 51 Riverside Avenue. To register for WACky Family Day Goes Green, call 203-222-7070 or go to www.westportartscenter.org.

The is sponsoring “Dig, Dive and Dub Step Into Summer,” a series of one-week camps engage children in dramatic play, crafts, music and, of course, education.

The weekly themes are: August 8 to 12, “Green Thumbs: From the Ground Up;” August 15 to 19, “Pirate, Kings and Queens: And the Water Around Us;” and August 22 to 26, “All That Jazz: Explore Music from Debussy to Dub-Step.”

All camps are from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and include field trips, pizza lunch and ice cream. The first two sessions are geared for children ages 5 to 10 and the last week is for ages 7 to 12. Eligible participants may sign up for one, two or all three sessions by calling 203-222-1424.

Local artist and art educator has some openings left in her summer art programs for young people. Throughout July and August, Beach is facilitating one-week classes that focus on a variety of materials and children will have the opportunity to experience drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, pastel and clay.

In a non-competitive and nurturing environment, children are encouraged to explore their creativity, she said.

“Studying the work of master artists is also an essential ingredient at this summer art camp,” Beach stated.

Class size is limited to only six students so Beach can provide individual attention to each participant. Beach is also available to work one-on-one with high school students who are interested in developing a portfolio for college applications.

“The joy of learning about art and self expression is encouraged in all classes,” she said.

Beach's studio is located at 304 Wilton Road. Morning workshops, for children ages 5 to 10, are 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and afternoon workshops, for ages 11 and older, are from 2 to 5 p.m. For more information, call Beach at 203-454-9831 or go to www.betsybeach.com.

“There are no right answers in creativity,” said Mary Feakins, M.A., licensed family and marriage therapist. “Every child is given the possibility of greatness yet the safety to fail. What better way to explore the world? Yet the second part of the creative equation is the teacher, mentor, and or parent. They establish the creative environment.”

Ogden said that because WAC's children's art programs are consistently sold out, WAC is increasing its children's programming by 30 percent. An Art Factory for young people, ages 10 to 13, will focus on cultivating specific skills and techniques. Led by Jessica Lynch, a mixed media artist, Ogden said they will learn about famous artists, too.

“This is for kids who came to classes at the Center but now want to hone in on more specific studies,” Ogden stated. WAC will also introduce more Super Saturday classes and an additional WACky Family Day during the year.

“We're opening the doors so that more people who want to participate in our programs are able to,” said WAC's Marketing Director Alyssa Crouse. “During the school year, we reach about 4,000 school-age children. We realize that there is a demand for the kind of programs we're offering and we want to meet the town's needs.”

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