Friday, April 30, 2010

Children can learn life skills through the arts

Teamwork, leadership skills, confidence, problem solving, analytical thinking, excellence in academics — qualities every parent wants their children to develop, yet most probably don't realize they can by studying the arts.

According to research from the National Endowment for the Arts, youngsters who participate in the arts develop critical thinking and problem solving skills, qualities important to today's employers. Youth who are exposed to the arts are "more likely engage in positive civic activities, like volunteering, exercise, and attending sporting events" as adults.

"The arts have a long lasting and tangible effect on our lives," says Wendy Leigh, vice president of education at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts. Abilities such as confidence, critical thinking, team building and teamwork "are skills they can take into any situation in life so you really get a lot out of your investment and it tends to be often times a life changing experience."

The Patel Conservatory offers full-day and half-day summer camps in dance, theater and music, but also classes for children and for adults year-round. Those children wanting to try everything will enjoy Instrumental Petting Zoo, where they sample lots of instruments, and Arts Explosion, camps that delve into music, theater and dance for children in pre-K through ninth grade. For teenagers, camps like Summerplay, in which they write their own play as a group and perform it on stage, Patel Conservatory Youth Theater and Rock School are top picks.

Because the Patel Conservatory is part of the downtown Straz Center for the Performing Arts, one of the finest performing arts venues in the world, Leigh says, students experience the best in facilities, curriculum and instruction. Says Leigh, "All of our teachers are working professionals who are perfecting their craft in the real world," allowing students to see their teachers perform as well as instruct.

Patel also offers financial assistance on the basis of financial need and available funding resources. To register or to receive a brochure by mail, call (813) 222-1002 or visit
Practically next door to the Patel Conservatory is the new Tampa Museum of Art, Half-day and full-day camps are available for students age 6 to 14, June 21-Aug. 6. This year's campers will explore a variety of styles, working with clay, sculpture, painting, drawing and decorative arts. The museum's goal is for children to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of art, and develop a talent for self-expression.

Camps such as Drawing and Painting, Mixed Media and Sculpture, Visual Storytelling: Comic and Illustration and Conserve, Collect and Create are offered. Weekly costs are half day, $125/$150 (members/nonmembers) and full day, $200/$225 (members/nonmembers). To register, call (813) 421-8373 or e-mail laura.cook

The YMCA offers some art camps, such as Picture This and Arts and Crafts at the Interbay-Glover location. Children will be given cameras and will creatively express themselves through journalism in camps June 28-July 2 and July 19-23. The Arts and Crafts camp will run June 21-25, July 12-16 and July 26-30. More information is available at Different YMCA branches have their own camps. Check the above Web site.

At $75, the city of Tampa's full day Kids Create Art camp is an affordable option, for children 8 to 12 years old. Offered at three locations in June and July, the 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. camp focuses on painting, pottery, singing and other activities. More information is available at and by calling (813) 274-8615.

For the third summer, Carrollwood Cultural Center at 4537 Lowell Road will offer arts camps. From June 14 to Aug. 6, half-day morning and afternoon camps with the option of extended care will be available.

About 30 camps, with names like Digital Zoom, Choral Rock, Pottery, Dance, Yoga, Robotics, You Can Draw, Rainforest Animals, Airplanes 201 and Hip Hop, will be offered throughout the summer. Costs are $100 for non-members with a $10 discount to members. More information is available at

A new arts camp with a magical flair has come to Tampa from down Miami. Creative Camps,, will be located in Hyde Park next to Indigo Coffee for children ages 5 to 12.

"Every day, children will learn a magic trick," said Jackie Toledo, investor. "All kids should be exposed to a performing art. It can only make them stronger in other aspects of their lives," Toledo said, citing school presentations as an example.

"It's all acting. — It allows the child to work on public speaking and build self-esteem," she said.
One benefit parents will appreciate is that free extended care is included, so even though camps officially last from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., parents can bring children from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. More information is available by calling (813) 410-5682 and at

Some camps, like the Kids Community College in FishHawk, offer arts and crafts as part of their overall curriculum. During Animal Planet week, children will make fossils; during Marine Extreme week, they'll paint sea murals, and so on. Specific information is available at

Finally, some children, especially if they have a parent home during the day, don't want to attend camps. But that doesn't mean they have to miss out. Private lessons in all art forms can be found in the area. Beth Kokol Arts (, Art Explorers ( and the Patel Conservatory all offer private lessons as well as camps.

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