For kids who are really into the arts (or think they might be, given the chance to explore), Summer Camp at the Chicago High School for the Arts could be just the experience you’re seeking.
“For students who are artistic, this is an environment where they can find a home with students who are just like them,” says Chris Cashman, Summer Camp coordinator and Spanish teacher at ChiArts, the pre-professional arts conservatory public high school in Chicago’s Humboldt Park and Ukrainian Village communities. “Artsy kids are unique and this is the home to celebrate that uniqueness together.”
For three weeks in July and August, Summer Camp at ChiArts allows for a complete arts immersion for kids in second to eighth grade and helps kids explore their artistic selves. And, the middle school cohort can gain a great introduction to the joy — and the rigor — of participating in the pre-professional arts conservatory education offered at ChiArts. “Ultimately, we hope some of our summer camp students would be interested in having our high school on their radar when it comes time to choose a high school to attend — but that’s certainly not a prerequisite for joining or enjoying a Summer Camp experience with us,” Cashman says.
What’s Summer Camp at ChiArts all about? Read on for the highlights of this unique program.
For younger students
If your elementary school-aged kid can’t stop singing in the shower, doodles all over every surface in the house and dances their way to the school bus, a summer with ChiArts is a summer well spent. “For the younger students, we’re looking for families who think their child might have artistic potential. Our Camp can really help them spread their wings,” Cashman says.
Second through fifth graders will get a taste of several different artistic pursuits, including visual arts, theater and dance. In small groups, students will explore the fundamentals of dance, including the importance of self-care and stretching. In visual arts, they’ll take objects from everyday life and create something artistic. In theater, they’ll find their voices through role play and creative noisemaking.
At the end of Camp, students will present a showcase and performance of their work, filmed and prerecorded, but streamed so parents can have a live performance experience and comment along.
“Elementary students will find a talent within themselves they didn’t know existed,” Cashman says. “Maybe they don’t believe they are good at drawing, but with a professional visual arts instructor and guidance, they learn they are capable of a skill they didn’t know was there before. It’s beautiful to watch them blossom.”
For this age group, ChiArts Summer Camp also offers a valuable outlet for self-expression — and a foundation for self-esteem, says Cashman. “They can really begin to develop the expression of their experiences, thoughts and opinions about life through the arts,” he says. “Our school is a place where self-esteem is really invested in and will naturally progress as kids see their artistic abilities grow.”
For middle schoolers
By the time kids reach sixth grade, they likely have a better idea of what sparks their arts interest, so this age group can select one of six arts specialties: creative writing, voice, theater, visual arts, band and dance.
Creative writers will immerse themselves in the basic elements of narrative writing, word games and poetry. They will read from a suggested list of creative novels, then share the creative elements that catch their attention.
In voice, students study music theory, composers and songwriters, plus compose a piece to perform as a group. ChiArts has a legacy of excellence in vocal performance and is currently for its vocal program.
Theater students will dive into characterization, vocal tone and dramatic games and exercises. They’ll rehearse and present an established small-group performance and write and perform an original short play.
Visual arts students will work with an instructor to develop skills such as drawing faces, painting landscapes, sculpting, crafting mixed media artwork and working with charcoal. ChiArts provides all the materials needed for this Camp.
In dance, students will learn the basics and fundamentals of ballet and modern dance plus special workshops in a specific dance style such as flamenco. They even choreograph their own piece to perform. “Dancers come in with very little or a lot of previous experience, and our instructors always make the magic happen,” Cashman says.
Band campers benefit from working with professional artists who perform using the instrument they will study. They’ll practice reading music, learn music theory and play in a full ensemble. Each day, they’ll study a musician or composer of color, and will rotate through different workshops that include how to record at home, how to transcribe a solo and other topics related to musical performance. Band camp at ChiArts is a unique opportunity to learn from a No.1-ranked IHSA music program.
This summer will be ChiArts’ second year conducting Summer Camp online and everyone anticipates another successful program, Cashman says. “Last year, our students really leaned in and our instructors did an excellent job pulling students in and maximizing effective ways to learn and perform online, even voice,” he says. “They really made the effort to pour their souls out and I can say that in 2020, our students progressed. I’m fully confident that 2021 will be a fantastic continuation of our online excellence.”
Elementary Summer Camp programs and the middle school band Camp program will be three hours, while the dance, theater, creative writing, voice and visual arts middle school Summer Camps extend to four hours each day. All provide a good taste of what ChiArts offers in the pre-professional conservatory segment of each school day during the regular academic year. The unparalleled nine-hour school day includes three hours of pre-professional arts conservatory study with professional working artists.
“At ChiArts, our vision is for students to be prepared for a professional arts career after they leave our school and we do have students who finish up with us and study the arts in college or go on to become successful working artists,” Cashman says. “For four years, our students are committed to being a writer, actor, trumpet player or an artist, dancer or singer. They are fully prepared for a career in the arts.”
Learn more about Summer Camp at ChiArts at chiarts.org/summer-camp.