Art Programs for Kids!
New York boasts some of the best art programs for kids, from dance to theater to music and everything in between. But since the start of COVID-19, in-person art programs have come to a stop. And with work-from-home, school-from-home, and a whole lot of emotional stress on us with everything going on in the world right now, art-at-home hasn’t exactly been a priority. Yet as things start to open up again as more people get vaccinated, it’s time to get crafty and creative again with your kiddos! In-person after school and summer camp art classes are ready to welcome your child, and many art programs have developed lasting hybrid models to get your kids back into the arts. We’ve got the scoop on all-things arts in New York for kids: why the arts are important, how art programs for kids have shifted since COVID-19, and the many ways to get your kids back to being creative!
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First and foremost, even though art may not have been a top concern for us during the height of the pandemic, our brilliant New York art programs never stopped running! “Making art never stopped! When the world shut down last year The Neighborhood Playhouse knew we had to keep the arts and children’s dreams alive. We started online classes very quickly. Students sing, dance, act, and write plays from home with guidance from our extraordinary teachers,” says Carmen Lamar Daehler, Neighborhood Playhouse Junior School Director. Although we may have been nostalgic for the days of in-person art, these programs found a way to continue art at home. “Since the pandemic, the kids enrolled in our String Music Program have experienced art straight from their living rooms, bedrooms and haven’t missed a beat (no pun intended),” adds Chinita Pointer, President/CEO of Noel Pointer Music.
Even if your kids did stay creative during the pandemic, transitioning back into in-person art can be intimidating, especially for little ones who haven’t had much exposure to these sort of programs. Artistic Director of Play Group Theatre, Jill Abusch suggests: “I think that kids have to remember that, even though they might not have had an outlet for their creativity, they never stopped being creative! They are creative, and always will be. And once they get back into the theatre — classes, rehearsals, performances — they will start feeling creative again. That spark will be re-lit! It is ok to feel a little bit scared and hesitant, but it is so important to push through those fears and get into the theatre…..and trust those creative feelings to be there when they do!” We couldn’t agree more. Think about all those times you watched your kiddos make up their own games at the park or turned the living room into a pillow-fort!
And as parents, we can have comfort in knowing that New York art programs for kids continue to develop and shift to keep our families safe, healthy, and of course, creative. “Now that we have learned best practices to conduct live, in-studio classes, Steffi Nossen is jumping into the summer and getting back into the studio!” says Shelley Grantham, Executive Director at Steffi Nossen School of Dance, “Our dance students, during the course of the pandemic, have pivoted through pre-recorded classes, online live classes, outdoor dance and a new landscape of performing with site-specific locations and outdoor amphitheaters…Art and dance is naturally ever changing, adapting to the world around it. Steffi Nossen dancers have risen out of this challenging year and together we have found new ways of learning, exploring, growing, and expressing our inner artist through communication, collaborating, and creativity.”
You may be wondering: why is art so important for kids right now, anyway? Well, art encourages collaboration and creativity with other kids. Yes, athletic and academic after-school programs also bring kids together, but there is something unique about art in the way that it encourages self-expression and communication in a collaborative environment. “One of the hardest parts of the pandemic for artistic children has been the separation from like-minded peers. Being with other kids with shared artistic interest not only provides a comfortable space in which they can be themselves but also provides an exciting exchange of imagination and ideas,” explains Loren Anderson, Owner of Katonah Art Center.
Beyond the social aspect, art also instills self-confidence, improves mental health, and, in some cases, develops physical fitness. “Supporting children’s social, emotional, and physical growth and well-being through the pandemic has been our first priority at Ballet Academy East,” says Julia Dubno, Founder and Director at Ballet Academy East. “The arts, and dance in particular, is a powerful way for children to have the opportunity to express themselves, interact with friends, stay physically active, and have fun! The best way to join back into class after a prolonged absence is to jump right in. Experienced teachers will know just how to encourage and inspire a young child who might feel tentative in their first class.” As Dubno notes, teachers will serve as an important part of the transition back into the arts for your kiddos. And once your little artists are back in-action, they’ll surely be reminded of just how rewarding art can be.
Now how exactly can your kids transition back into the arts? What kinds of programs are available and what might those classes look like? One option to get back into the swing of things is through music. “One of the best ways for kids to get back to the arts is to actively engage in music or other performing arts! Now that in person music lessons are safely available in addition to virtual, the personal interaction with a teacher in private lessons or small classes creates a wonderful feeling of creative self expression and accomplishment. When children choose to play an instrument which has the sound they love, happiness is the result…For preschoolers and babies, exposure to hands on music making with age appropriate instruments such as bongos, ukuleles, shakers, small violins, xylophones are both fun and enriching,” explains Deborah Molodofsky, Founder and Director at Amadeus Music School.
If you’re totally on-board with music as a transition into the arts, then you may also want to check out Noel Pointer Music: “To get kids back to being creative, I’d suggest they sign up for our ‘String Music Program,’ especially this summer, where they’ll learn how to play an instrument, go on a fun trip, meet some really cool kids who are doing the same thing and develop skills that will enhance their academics,” says Chinita Pointer. We know how popular summer day and sleep away camps are, but as you look towards the summer, consider sprinkling in a bit of music, either through musical camps or classes, to get the creativity rolling again.
Another option to consider is to get back to being creative through dance! “Kids need to move and what better way to get back into the arts than dance? Let your child dance for joy with our fun, energetic approach,” says Roberta Humphrey, Owner of Dance for Joy, “Our ballet based programs allow students to progress at their own pace in a non-competitive, developmentally appropriate syllabus. Start with BippityBop where 3-6 year olds explore the world of dance and have their own recital. Ballet classes start at age 7; also jazz, contemporary and modern. Add performing in their Nutcracker or other performance opportunities and your child will shine!” We’re obsessed with the creative and oh-so-fun classes at Dance for Joy.
We also appreciate how supportive the New York dance community is, making the transition for your kids that much easier. Shelley Grantham explains how dance classes are structured at Steffi Nossen School of Dance: “Arts programs such as the Steffi Nossen StoryBook and Summer Dance Camp offer a supportive environment where our youngest dancers will gain focus and a jumping off point to emerge from the isolation of social distancing to be more comfortable exploring their own creativity with friends. Older dancers are given the tools and technique to confidently expand their knowledge of diverse dance styles while using their own voices to create original dances.”
Yet another option for creativity in New York for kids is theater. After spending a lot of time cooped up at home, kids need to not only get creative again, but get social! And theater is definitely one of the best ways to push kids (safely and securely) out of their social comfort zone. “This year has been a different journey for everyone — some kids have felt super creative in a variety of ways, and others have felt a total lack of creativity. Right now, The Play Group Theatre is focusing on being a place where everyone can come together, wherever they’re at, and begin building back. We all love the theatre. We’re going to start from that place, and be patient with each and ourselves as we rediscover how we make art together,” says Jill Abusch.
And last, but certainly not least, is visual arts. If your little one can’t get enough of Crayola crayons and Scento markers, then visual arts may just be the perfect creative transition. “While home, some kids had the ability to experiment with art materials, within the limits of a home environment,” explains Loren Anderson, “In the KAC studio, kids will be use a wide range of materials while getting instruction in drawing, painting, pottery, cartooning and more. KAC instructors are all professional artists who teach the subjects that are their own passion. We are looking forward to sharing our wonderful space and getting back to creating art at KAC.”
Let’s help our kids reconnect with the abundant art programs that New York has to offer. If we learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that our kids are flexible and adaptable, sometimes even more so than we are. Whether they’ve been in formal art classes before, took part in art at school, or have little to no art experience, now is the time to introduce (or reintroduce!) your kids to their crafty and creative side.