Three-week program exposes students to creating in differing forms
By Alison Rooney
Claire Woo, along with her twin sister, Crystal, has attended various youth art programs and camps. This July, both participated in Garrison Art Center’s Summer Arts Institute (SAI), and they found it different than most of the others.
“There was actually less freedom, in terms of projects we were given, but once we got started, that changed and it felt way more natural. Plus we used the outdoors, which was great,” Claire explained. Both girls, Hopewell residents, who are entering 10th grade, have been “drawing seriously for about two years,” said Crystal, who felt she had “learned a lot about composition and observation from life” over the course of the three-week-long SAI program.
Quincy Portman, 17, also from Hopewell, felt similarly. “This program was freeing, not restricted. The teachers let your creative juices flow. I have never worked on sculpture before and it’s now a favorite.”
The SAI was established in 1998 as an experiential immersion in the making of art. The program notes describe it as offering high school students “a full range of facilities, enabling them to develop their creative abilities under the guidance of outstanding teaching artists. Provocative discussions with faculty and guest artists, field trips and the strong encouragement of risk-taking in a congenial environment, free students to explore their ideas without limitations.”
Fifteen art students participated — including Philipstown’s Olivia Donovan and Cassie Traina and Beacon’s Giada Amador and Bradley Camacho Delgado, ranging from grades 9 through 12, each spending every weekday morning drawing for two hours during the first two weeks. Splitting into two groups, one group spent the first week painting, the other sculpting (with an emphasis on pottery); they then switched over. In the final week, all students tried their hand at printmaking.
Painter Bill Kooistra was a first-time instructor at SAI, though he, along with several of the other instructors (including Beth Bolga, Sheryl Levine and Maria Pia Marella), had previously worked one-on-one with a teenage artist through the Art Center’s winter mentor program. “We set up a still life, which the students used for both drawing and painting,” he related, “and they did representational and abstract interpretations of it, exploring using paint in different ways.” Kooistra felt the culminating exhibition of work, which filled two rooms, was an important part of the program. “Kids don’t get that many chances to get their work up, outside of school classrooms, and to see this kind of thing is good for them.”
For Beacon High School entering senior Bradley, this is what he hopes to do. A former mentor program participant, Bradley, who says he has been doing drawing and painting seriously for about two years, enjoyed this one as well. “I really liked it. We worked in realism and abstract in both drawing and painting. I also love ink and clay and everything else.” Bradley calls “learning how to look, when I draw, instead of using memory” his favorite aspect of this summer’s learning experience in art.
For Cold Spring’s Cassie, also 16, and a first-time participant, SAI “opened me up to new media, including painting. For sculpture we used lots of different materials that on my own I would never have had access to.” Uncertain of exactly what she wants to pursue, Cassie said, “I have an artistic, creative profession in mind, and getting to do this helped me to move forward in that.”