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Art Camp Urban Color: Kendra Lock

May 16, 2010

From time to time, I conduct interviews with camp directors to collect advice for parents looking for unique experiences for their kids.  I recently dropped in to Urban Color in San Francisco’s Inner Richmond district to check out what storeowner and camp director Kendra Lock had to say about her art school camp.

Urban Color is a gallery, boutique and art school all rolled into one exciting space.  The storefront is awash with color, stimulus and fun, interesting things to look at in every direction.  The boutique and gallery offer home décor ideas and elements, along with fine art by Bay Area and other west coast artists.  It is a perfect place to find that cool and unique gift for someone special.

Once inside, you wend your way up the stairs to where the true magic takes place, where Kendra and the other art teachers transform kids (and sometimes adults!) into eager creators of marvelous and fun pieces of art.  The space is small, but vibrant, and perfectly suited to the intimate nature of the classes Kendra offers.  It is a place where kids are allowed to paint on the walls and the chairs and tables are so splattered with paint, you wonder if it’s safe to sit down.  It is clear that fun happens here!

With so many camps to choose from, any tips on how to pick the right camp for your child?

The absolute first priority is to discern what interests your child.  Of course, it’s important to make certain decisions that help to create a well-rounded child, but with young children – the six-, seven- and eight-year olds – it’s important to choose an activity that’s right for them.  It just doesn’t work to push them into something they don’t like or aren’t comfortable with.

The second priority centers on convenience and affordability.  Is the location convenient to your home?  Is the parking difficult?  Is there an easy drop off and pickup procedure?  Am I getting what I’m paying for and can I afford to pay for this camp without feeling resentment?  These are all important questions to ask yourself.

What questions should parents ask a camp director?

Parents should ask what they’re getting for their money.  Particularly for an art camp, it’s important to know, at the end of each day or the end of the week, what tangible project(s) will my child come away with?  I think when parents are paying top dollar for an art camp, their kids should come away with something substantial and have an experience that’s more creative than the average.

How should parents prepare their kids for camp?

I always invite parents to bring their kids to the studio before camp begins if they have the time.  Young kids especially seem to be more comfortable on the first day of camp if they’ve been here before and they see how comfortable, cozy and cute our environment is.  And the rules at Urban Color are there are no crayons or fingerpaints here, kids must wear play clothes because they will get messy (we use only real paints!) and we won’t feed the kids sugar; snacks at Urban Color are natural and good for you.

I want kids to know that we offer really fun classes and that we have no set expectations about their artistic skills.  They’ll always go home with something cool and they will definitely learn how to do something they didn’t know how to do before.  We have super small classes, no more than four kids per class, so the teachers can give each child a lot of personal attention.

The summer is long, and many kids attend six to 10 sessions of camp. Any tips on how to prevent camp burnout?

I know it’s commonplace these days for kids to be super overscheduled and I regularly have kids who I can tell have been; they are exhausted.  I know most kids can keep up the pace their parents have set out for them, but by Friday I can often tell that they’ve had enough.  These kids are burnt out and cranky by the end of the week, but I know it’s not their fault, so I try my best to keep them giggling and laughing.  That’s also why I make sure that kids go home throughout the week with cool art projects they’ve completed, just in case their interest wanes towards the end of the week due to fatigue.

Any last tips for parents?

I think it’s important for parents to place their kids in a loving, caring environment where they are encouraged to be creative in a relaxed and positive way.  I don’t baby kids, but I do allow them to take a break or play or make constructive mischief if they want to.  I mean, where else in the world are you allowed to paint on the walls?  And I think it’s important to know that you are giving your child the chance to learn something new.  That’s what helps to keep kids stimulated and excited about what they’re doing.

Lastly, please tell us what’s special about Urban Color?

I think Urban Color is a special place because it is truly a happy place.  Everything I am doing is something I’m interested in, that I want to, and that makes me happy.  I’m selling cute stuff, I’m making cute stuff and I’m teaching everything I know about creativity because I’m committed to it.  Art is not a hobby to me; art means everything and that’s the philosophy I want to share.  I want people to see that everything around them is essentially art:  the pillows they sleep on were created by an artist, the alarm clock that wakes them in the morning was invented by an artist, the PJs they sleep in were designed by an artist.

Art camps run the gamut, and I always tell my parents that there are no crayons or fingerpaints at Urban Color!  We teach a variety of stimulating arts and crafts techniques raging from painting self-portraits and making jewelry to sewing good karma dolls and writing stories and making books.

Urban Color is about instilling in kids how important it is to express oneself through creativity.  Every moment should be about using or appreciating creativity to support their evolving ingenuity.  The key to them being able to solve bigger problems in adulthood is to offer them opportunities to solve them in childhood.  At Urban Color, we’re giving them opportunities to solve creative problems at a much younger age than other art schools.

Where do you know that allows a four-year-old to wield a needle and thread to sew her own Rocks-Pow-Pow karma doll.  Where else teaches a six-year-old to operate a sewing machine to make her own doll clothes?  We trust kids to be capable of doing things and accomplishing goals their parents don’t even know they can achieve. Every day at Urban Color is about how much fun can I have, how much can I share and how can I offer a child an experience in creativity like no other?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 17, 2010 10:29 am

    This is a really good read! Some parents are left to ask themselves “what is my child going to do over the summer”. When deciding what summer camp is best, it is important to find a summer camp that will help the child grow and keep them entertained. Sometimes doing this can be hard, but knowing what to look for in a summer camp really helps the decision making process.

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