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When I graduated from college and transitioned from student to professional, one of the first things I did was take an acrylic painting class through an adult continuing education program offered by my town’s university. I hadn’t explored visual arts in this way since high school, and I was quickly reminded of the benefits of engaging that part of my brain. In the years since, I have found scattered moments of artistic respite coloring with my kids, exploring fashion and even cooking, but it’s never quite the same as that structured dedicated time.
And so, every spring, as I begin thinking about the slower pace summer brings, I think, this is the summer I will really branch out and try something new. With the recent grand reopening of the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts and Windgate Art School, this really is the year to dive in.
The school itself isn’t new; it was established in 1963. But the new facility offers 11,000 square feet of fully equipped studio space for instruction in drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, glass, wood and metalsmithing classes for children and adults, along with a gallery space for displaying student work. Additional features school include the Robyn and John Horn Gallery, dedicated studios for artists-in-residence, and the newly incorporated art lawn for outdoor classes and activities.
Classes are offered for students of all ages and skill levels year-round — primarily on a quarterly basis, although short-term courses and specialty workshops are also available. So, for those of us on academic calendars, the summer is a great time to take classes.
The offerings are expansive. There are adult classes, youth classes for grades 1-12, workshops, and one-night classes for two that would be perfect for date night or girls’ night out.
Classes for adults meet once a week for three, five or 10-week sessions, with offerings ranging from beginner courses to advanced, open-studio options.
Even if you don’t have the luxury of Tuesday mornings off this summer, a Saturday workshop allows time to immerse yourself into a project and take home your own work at the end of the day. Held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., summer workshop offerings include a plant marker marathon, jewelry upcycling and kitchen wind chimes. Some classes are also offered during the evenings.
Of course, summer is also when parents look for ways to occupy our kids while still offering something educational and maybe even air-conditioned. AMFA offers a variety of experiences exploring the visual and performing arts, and the bonus is that kids develop a love of the arts as they get older.
Like adult classes, the youth studio series provides hands-on studio and performance activities, gallery tours, and access to professional teaching artists for students in grades 1-12.
Each week offers a new selection of visual and performing arts courses, both in the morning and the afternoon, allowing for students and parents to choose courses that best fit the students’ interests and schedules.
This summer, the youth studio series lasts five weeks; the first begins June 26. Classes meet Monday through Friday and are scheduled from 9 a.m. to noon or 1 to 4 p.m. If you choose to enroll your child in morning and afternoon classes, a supervised lunch period is included.
Topics include pirate training, stage combat, wearable art, improv, drawing intensive, musical theatre, art journals, animal puppets and much more.
Parents of younger elementary kids may want to consider the Junior Arts Academy — a two-week immersive arts program for rising first through four graders. Offered in June, the theme this summer is “Together Again!” centering around AMFA’s inaugural exhibition “Together.” The program provides fun learning experiences throughout the museum that allow students to discover a range of media, techniques and themes in the studios; tell stories in the theater; and connect their projects with the art in the galleries.
Saturday workshops are also an option for children, and some of them are designed for one adult and one child to take together.
If this sounds like too many great options from which to choose, you’re in luck! This summer, AMFA is offering three Saturday open houses for the Windgate Art School to help make your decision. They are being held from 1-4 p.m. May 27, June 3 and June 10. These free events allow you to meet instructors, tour newly renovated studios, and learn more about upcoming classes and workshops. An instructor from the following areas will be present in each corresponding studio to answer questions: ceramics, drawing/painting/printmaking, glass, metals and woodworking.
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