Summer Art for Keiki

Keiki can let their imaginations run wild at this year’s Kauai Academy of Creative Arts summer program. The curriculum is designed to allow children between ages 6 and 14 to explore their creativity in a structured setting, giving them something to look forward to during summer break.

“This is something that all children really love to do,” says program director Jennifer Hipp.

The four-week camp is set for June 22 through July 17. There are two daily sessions: mornings from 8 to noon, and afternoons from 12:30 to 4:40. Children may choose three different 70-minute classes in the morning or afternoon periods, or they can enroll in both sessions for a total of six classes daily.

The classes are held at Island School and are an eclectic mix of visual, musical and performing arts, each taught by different instructors. In the mornings, Beginning Ukulele, Beginning Keyboard, Photo Fun, Book and Journal Making, Formative Jazz, The Art of Printmaking and Lauhala Weaving/Hawaiian Arts are offered. In the afternoon, it’s Nature Art, Painting, Drawing and Portrait Making, Arts of Asia and Early Advanced Keyboarding. The program culminates with an open house that involves a performing arts presentation by the students, as well as an art walk to view the many masterpieces expected to be crafted by the academy grads.

“It’s amazing some of the artwork that comes out of this,” says Vida Harder, president of Kauai Academy of Creative Arts, who oversees and coordinates the program.

Hipp also always is amazed by the creativity that abounds.

“The children have so much talent that comes out that they don’t even realize that they have,” she says. “You think 70-minute classes are long, but when the kids are creating, painting, drawing and acting, they’re really involved in what they’re learning, and I think it’s a great experience for kids to really be a part of and express what’s inside of them.”

The Department of Education employee, who currently serves as an academic coach, especially likes to see students who might otherwise struggle in school and have a hard time learning blossom in the summer arts program.

“Art can touch those students in a way that you might not ever find another way to reach them,” she says. “It builds their confidence and self-esteem.”

The 2-to-20 ratio of teachers to students in the classrooms also helps keiki stay focused and inspired. Additionally, the classes give students an opportunity to explore the arts in a way that many schools can’t anymore because of financial and time limitations.

“They’ve really gotten stifled,” says Harder about public school arts programs.

To be able to dive into the arts in depth allows kids to tap into their naturally colorful imaginations — a chance they might not otherwise receive during the school year.

Students come from a variety of backgrounds and from schools around the island. Though the cost is reasonable ($260 for morning or afternoon sessions, or $495 for both), scholarships are offered to keiki from low-income families.

“That’s really the purpose of a nonprofit, to reach out into the community and the families who might not be able to afford to come to summer programs,” says Hipp. “We give them those opportunities.”

Harder and Hipp are happy to help spread their excitement for creativity to others.

“I love it and I want to see it advance,” says Hipp, who grew up playing music, acting and painting.

Harder, a retired DOE special education teacher, agrees. She volunteered with the organization after retiring, as she was looking for a way to give back to the community. She enjoys art and has been making ceramics since she started studying the craft in the 1970s at Kauai Community College, so Kauai Academy of Creative Arts was the perfect fit.

The program was founded more than 30 years ago by a group of local artists in order to provide supplemental art education during the summer. About 125 to 200 students participate each year, and Harder hopes that number will continue to grow.

“I really want to give children the opportunity to be creative and find their gift early,” she says.

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