Summer (arts) loving: With CAC funding, these summer arts camps aim to cultivate minds and bodies

After two frustrating years of lockdowns and scrambling to move entire programs into ambiguous virtual spaces, both families and area arts organizations have found cause for celebration: The return to in-person summer camps.

For families who secure a spot for their children at a camp can anticipate, as one camp leader put it, a return to the balance that was thrown off by virtual learning and the academic year’s imperative to meet requirements—often at the expense of in-school arts programs.

And, thanks to funding from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC), many area youth-focused arts camps are offering some unique, in-person experience this summer.

Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center’s Amistad Caribbean Arts Camp“CAC is proud to support summer camps that offer something for everyone,” says CAC executive director Jill Paulsen. “They're accessible—some camps are online; they're affordable—some are even free; and they cover a range of interests from science, history, performing arts, and cultural heritage.”

Paulsen says the camps offered through CAC funding not only offer a wide variety of experiences and opportunities, but the concepts have also been well-thought out to provide opportunities for just about every interest.

“We are grateful to our grant recipients for putting in the time and energy to offer high-quality summer experiences to kids in Cuyahoga County,” she says, “and we hope families take advantage of them.”

Here is a snapshot of some of the youth-centered arts camps options offered this summer, and a look at the themes being explored.

Dive into local history
(Shaker Historical Society, $14,359 General Operating Support grant)

“Camp allows children to expand emotional intelligence and social skills, which are especially important after two years of limited contact due to the pandemic,” says Brianna Treleven, executive director of the Shaker Historical Society (SHS).

A common thread with arts focused camps—hands-on activities and an immersion in local history—will be the theme of two day camps at the SHS, 16740 South Park Blvd. in Shaker Heights this year.

Campers will go Hopping Through History with Cleveland Institute of Art archaeologist Elizabeth Hoag and Gesu School master teacher Rosemary Nemeth at an engaging, hands-on history camp and field trip taking place June 27 through July 1.

“We move beyond memorizing dates and facts to have kids consider how the actions of the past affect them now,” Treleven says.

Camp meets every day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., although times may vary with the field trips. Cost is $175 for SHS members; $200 for non-members. Sibling discounts and other reductions may be available by contacting SHS. Registration deadline is June 13.

Hoag and Nemeth return to SHS for Shaker Dig 8 from July 11 to July 15. Now in its eighth year, the camp focuses on archeology. This engaging, hands-on camp explores archaeological methods, techniques, and tools.

“We are looking forward to taking the RTA on a downtown field drip, getting our hands dirty in a dig for artifacts, and working with youth in the community to continue to engage and discover our shared history,” Treleven says.

Campers will need to wear old clothing and tennis shoes. Camp meets every day from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Cost is $150 for SHS members, $175 for non-members. Sibling discounts and other reductions may be available by contacting SHS. The Registration deadline is June 23.

Duffy Liturgical Dance EnsembleExperiencing a Pandemic Renaissance
(Duffy Liturgical Dance Ensemble $16,798 Cultural Heritage grant)

Movement and engaging in conversations about history will take center stage at Duffy Liturgical Dance Ensemble, at a three-week performing arts camp geared toward youth and teens. This year’s theme, A Pandemic Renaissance, harkens back to a creative time in 20th Century African American history.

“Campers will use the Harlem Renaissance history to create performing arts projects informed by their experiences during the pandemic’s ‘shelter In place’ episode,” says Duffy Lit director Edna Duffy, who adds that it is especially important to offer children a creative outlet and keep their minds engaged. “It may provide cathartic release for them from the toils and tolls of their everyday lives.”

The Duffy Lit Performing Arts Summer Camp runs Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 13 through 30 at DuffyLit Studios, 1919 East 107th St., Cleveland. The fee for the camp is $385 per person. For financial assistance and to register, call (216) 921-0734.

A musical summer
(The Music Settlement, $193,895 General Operating Support grant)

Longstanding cuts in funding to arts education have diminished the presence and influence of art during the school year. All the more important that area organizations are bringing more camp offerings with an arts focus back.

“For students, the school year is focused on academic studies and oftentimes, hobbies and creative activities are not the primary focus,” Anne-Marie Schwarz, vice president of advancement at The Music Settlement, laments.

The Music School Settlement, with locations in University Circle and Ohio City, is offering summer camps through its three departments of music, early childhood, and music therapy.

“Summer camps allow time to rebalance and learn to engage,” Schwarz concludes, “in creative arts, music, drama, sensory, and sampling [all of the genres] that ignite the individual and explore and express [themselves] in new ways.”

The Music School Settlement has more than 20 different camp offerings running from June 6 through August 6. Times and fees vary. Click here for more information and to register.

Break into summer
(Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, $91,716 General Operating Support grant)

The Center for Arts-Inspired Learning wants kids to explore their creativity this summer with local teaching artists. Break Into Summer camp has hands-on activities in dance, music, and visual arts for youth in kindergarten through fifth grade.

“Art camps are important to Cleveland area children because they can express themselves creatively,” says Sheffia Dooley, Center for Arts-Inspired Learning CEO and president.

The Break Into Summer Camp runs from June 6 through 10, Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., but enrollment is currently full. There is a waitlist. Click here for more information.

One new creative expression offering this year is Play-It-Forward—a free music camp to Cleveland students that offers youth in third through sixth grade the chance to play musical instruments, have lunch and snacks, and go on a field trip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

“These experiences will be layered with Social-Emotional Learning competencies (SEL), English Language Arts (ELA), math, STEAM, and social studies,” says Dooley.

Enrollment is open for the Play-It-Forward music camps.

Esperanza STEAM CampFull STEAM ahead
(Esperanza, $4,000 Project Support grant)

Esperanza is offering a STEAM Camp in June and July. Admission is free, but space is limited. Camp organizers plan to dedicate one week to each letter in S-T-E-A-M.

Esperanza spokesperson Terri Jankowski says the camp this year will focus on healing after a difficult past two years.

“Many of the children in the Cleveland area who are part of our programs struggle with socio-emotional skills, which became worse during the pandemic,” Jankowski said in a statement writes. “Through art-driven activities, we are aiming to help improve these skills. This year, we have planned a schedule for the students packed with educational and fun activities!”

The STEAM Camp runs June 13 through July 22 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Camp is held at Esperanza, 3104 W. 25th St. Admission is free, but spaces are limited. Register by calling (216) 651-7178 or by emailing Nyleishca Gonzalez.

Art of the African diaspora
(Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, $18,067 Project Support grant)

The exploration of culture as a journey is the motivation behind Julia de Burgos Cultural Arts Center’s Amistad Caribbean Arts Camp, offered June 6 through 17. Students audition for the center’s Open Tone Music program and instructors will lead sessions on the instrumental music, vocals, dance, and art of the African Diaspora. Students will also complete performances throughout the camp and the Summer.

“Returning to full, in-person programming is very exciting for us,” says Open Tone founder and executive director Chris Anderson. “We’re looking forward to sharing the experience of group collaboration and creating music together face-to-face again, particularly for the younger students who have yet to experience in-person classes.”

Amistad Caribbean Arts Camp runs June 6 through 17 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday thru Friday at the Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center, 2800 Archwood Ave., Cleveland. Students are accepted through audition only.

A portion of the Amistad Caribbean Arts Camp will also be available remotely through Zoom. Tuition is $300, but full scholarships are available to all Cleveland Metropolitan School District Students. Click here for more information and to audition.

Read more articles by Marc Lefkowitz.

Marc Lefkowitz is a sustainability consultant with more than 15 years of experience writing, speaking and advocating for a more sustainable Northeast Ohio. He served as Director of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute and editor of its well-known blog at gcbl.org. He has a B.A. in English from Ohio State University and an M.A. in urban planning from Cleveland State University. He is a regular bike commuter and transit rider. Photo: Liz Cooper.