July marked the beginning of another summer of art camps at Remai Modern but, in a pandemic year, we knew this would be a special summer for art camps. Many things were the same as any other year. For kids, art camp is a welcome learning environment, where they can exercise their creativity without the usual constraints of a classroom. For art instructors, it is a time to dive into focused projects and highlight the best parts of Remai Modern. For parents and families, it is a chance to see their child’s artistic talents flourish.
One of the main differences art camp leaders noticed during the pandemic was the chance to slow down. I was reminded of the question on the monitors outside Remai Modern’s elevators: “Can you slow down for art?” The answer this year was “yes.” At camp, we saw how much art benefits from this change of pace.
While there were many changes in the way we conducted art camps during a pandemic, one important thing remained the same: kids are still kids. I was impressed with the energy, creativity and play the kids brought to each day of camp. Each child had their own table which became their mini-studio for the week. I observed this leading to greater individual expression in each project. In previous years, we shared long tables, and kids were more likely to compare their projects with others. Comparison can be discouraging and kids might be tempted to copy something from their neighbour’s work. With individual tables, each camper was more focused on their own explorations. Because we offer a wide variety of materials and projects at our camps, kids gain valuable personal insight when they discover an affinity for certain mediums.
Because we sought to be mindful of our staff’s pandemic stamina, the innovation of sharing the camps between instructors led to a wealth of shared knowledge.Rachel Broussard
We made sure to move as many projects outdoors as possible. This emphasis on outside was new for art camp, and it reminded us of the rich playground nature provides for the imagination. The campers loved playing on José Luis Torres’ sculpture, Va-et-Vient (Coming and Going). They made this artwork their own through their play, and asked to take nearly every break on the installation. On a rainy Tuesday, we had our break in the Riverview Room, where they danced and sang. After this day, they seemed to really embrace the museum as their own space to explore for the week. When we brought one group to watch Sara Cwynar’s Red Film, the kids sprawled out on the carpet like they were at a sleepover in the artist’s living room. Time in the tipi making birch bark baskets with Lyndon J. Linklater was another highlight of camp. Kids returning to camp remembered this experience from previous years. We are grateful for the knowledge and stories Linklater shares with us in this unique offering. In the end, much like our day to day pandemic lives, we spent as much time with the natural spaces around our museum as we did indoors.
Kids are feeling the strain of pandemic life too, and I saw how instructors and assistants could be present with the children during these moments of stress.Rachel Broussard
As a team, staff took extra care while planning the camps to ensure safety was in mind. Because we sought to be mindful of our staff’s pandemic stamina, the innovation of sharing the camps between instructors led to a wealth of shared knowledge. I learned many new projects from observing my coworkers’ camps. After months without school tours and in-person outreach programs, many of us were relieved to have an opportunity for in-person programming again. The smaller groups meant we were able to give extra attention to each camper. Focusing on creative projects for six hours a day is a big task for children, and there are many times during art camp that social dynamics or emotions from home take precedence in a camper’s day. Kids are feeling the strain of pandemic life too, and I saw how instructors and assistants could be present with the children during these moments of stress.
Guardians expressed gratitude at having their children in a camp this year. They mentioned how excited their children were to go to a new place each day and connect with other kids outside of school. Art camp always culminates with a final art show, showcasing everything the campers created during their time at Remai Modern. In previous years, these were sometimes rushed and chaotic. But because we conducted the art shows at the studio windows this year and took turns entering the indoor space, families were more likely to linger. After showing off their own artwork, some children took time to show off the artwork of their new camp friends.
Overall, I was extremely impressed with the artwork the children created during art camps. For staff, the innovations we made during camps this year will serve as improvements for years beyond the pandemic. I take comfort knowing that these campers learned to seek solace in art and nature during our camps. I expect we will see many of them at Remai Modern for years to come. Thank you to the families that joined us for a summer of art!