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12 cool Pittsburgh summer arts camps for kids

Candy Williams
February21/ 2017

For those right-brain dominant kids – who prefer to create or paint or perform a play — an eclectic array of Pittsburgh artsy summer camps are designed to spark their creativity and broaden their horizons. Read about 12 camps that are worthy of a standing ovation.

summer camp
Pittsburgh CLO Academy summer campers perform in “Flat Stanley.” Photo by Archie Carpenter

1. For the musical theater artist

Be a star! Pittsburgh CLO Academy’s summer performance camps are designed to give kids the opportunity to experience preparing for and performing on the stage. Students work with a director, choreographer, and music director to create their own exciting musical theater experience.

Summer camps are offered for all age groups, from “Promising Preschoolers” to high school seniors. Parents are invited to sample a class for free on April 2 at the Summer Camp Open House. It’s a good way to see if the classes are a good fit for your kids. All camps take place at the CLO Academy, Downtown. As an added benefit, all participants receive a free ticket for a Pittsburgh CLO Summer Season show.

summer camps
String instrument musicians get the rock star treatment at Cello Fury Rock Camp. Photo courtesy of Cello Fury

2. For the classical artists with rock impulses

Rock on – in an orchestral way. Cello Fury Rock Camp for Strings is a high-energy music day camp held in Squirrel Hill and Green Tree and run by the members of Cello Fury, an outstanding local rock/classical crossover group. Open to string students of all levels — from ages 7 to 16 – the camp delivers a musical experience beyond the traditional, classical style of playing.

Campers play in a rock orchestra, practice with their own rock bands, and participate in master classes and workshops. A performance by campers for parents and friends takes place on the final day of camp.

The week-long camp – offered in four sessions from June 26 to Aug –  is an excellent way to motivate young string players over the summer.

“Violinists, violists, cellists and bassists can let out their inner rock star by playing alternative and contemporary styles of music,” says spokeswoman Nicole Myers. “Cello Fury Rock Camp provides a fun learning environment for classical music students interested in trying something new.”

summer camp
Kids become cooks with international flair in ‘Cooking Around the World.’ Photo courtesy of Sweetwater Center for the Arts

3. For the culinary artist

Among the many camps offered at Sweetwater Center for the Arts is “Cooking Around the World.” The encounter takes kids on a culinary world tour without leaving the kitchen, making and sampling the foods of different countries. On the last day of camp, they learn about favorite foods in the ‘Burgh (pierogies, maybe?) and how they became popular in our diverse city. Appropriate cooking fundamentals, food safety, cooking terms and supervised knife skills will be taught.

The Sewickley art center offers a number of weekly, half-day, and full-day summer camps for ages 4-17 in the visual, performing and culinary arts. Check out the website for details.

summer camp
Photo courtesy of The Frick Pittsburgh

4. For the visual artist

The Frick Pittsburgh summer camps give kids the chance to make amazing art, discover cool collections, and play in what they call “the best backyard in Pittsburgh.”

For students entering grades 5-8, “Beyond What You See” from July 17 to 21 will explore various kinds of materials and unique use of them as campers gain new perspectives on three museum collections. Students entering grades 2-5 can get a “Passport to Imagination” from Aug. 14 to 18, enabling them to stretch their imaginations as they explore the museums, creating art along the way.

Activities include printmaking, painting, and sculpting.

summer camp
A student works on her make-up design and technique. Photo courtesy of Little Lake Theatre

5. For the behind-the-scenes artist

Little Lake Theatre Company in Canonsburg is expanding its technical theater training to a wider age range this summer. Its “Behind the Scenes” camp will give kids a chance to learn about many aspects of theater. Campers will participate in classes in lighting design, sound design, set and properties construction, costume design, make-up design, stage management and directing.

“This camp is unique because campers will discover the magic that goes on behind the scenes
during a production, while creating their own design projects,” says Jena Oberg, artistic director.

“Behind the Scenes Camp” runs from July 24-28 for ages 10-18.

summer camp
A camper tries her hand at animation. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

6. For the animation artist

“Create & Animate” will be offered at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts in Shadyside from June 12-16 for ages 5 to 7. Kids will have an opportunity to create a world of their own in this camp that combines painting, collage, and sculpture with storytelling and animation.

After designing zany characters, sets, props and create original stories, they can bring everything to life through stop-motion animation using tablets and apps.

“Art camps at Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts provide young people with unique opportunities to learn and create in a safe environment,” says Lindsay Huff, assistant, Artists in Schools & Communities. “Every summer, kids and teens come to explore an impressively wide variety of art forms, ranging from animation and 360 video to darkroom photography, metalsmithing, and printmaking.”

summer camp
Acting skills and self-confidence are goals for Prime Stage Theatre’s summer camp. Photo courtesy of Prime Stage Theatre

7. For the dramatic artist

Whether they dream of a career in the dramatic arts or want to develop their acting skills and self-confidence, Pittsburgh area students ages 13-17 can register now for Prime Stage Theatre’s 2017 Summer Theatre Camp, “Monologues and Movement.”

The camp, which runs from June 19-22 at Prime Stage Studio in the West End, will conclude with a showcase performance on June 23. Classes are taught by professional actors with extensive experience in dance, movement, voice, acting and improvisation.

“Camp participants have lots of fun discovering ways to express their individuality and gain new skills as performers and readers in the classroom and on the stage,” says Wayne Brinda, Prime Stage co-founder and artistic director. “Whether you’re looking to improve your acting, singing and dancing skills or just want to make friends, try something new and have a great time during summer vacation.”

summer camp
Art camp at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh mixes outdoor activities with indoor studio time. Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Children’s Museum

8. For the mixed media artist

In the place where every day is a glorious experience of imagination and creativity for little ones, older have an opportunity to develop, too. Experimental artists from age 8-12 will meet their match at the Art Camp at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. Campers will experiment with a range of media and techniques – from ceramics to printmaking, fiber arts to painting. Every day kids will face a new challenge with a different theme and to add to the enjoyment, outdoor activities are part of the mix.

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Assemble summer camps take on a more socially responsible theme. Photo courtesy of Assemble

9. For the societal artist 

Assemble, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering learning and creativity challenges students to design a world that doesn’t yet exist. They will create the city and the culture, the technology and the experience in YOU-topia. Campers will bring their visions to life and communicate them through art, movies, comics, and poetry.

“Our YOU-topia also will be touching on social justice issues,” says Nina Marie Barbuto, founder of Assemble in Garfield.

YOU-topia – just one of Assemble’s summer camp programs – is intended for ages 11-13, and is scheduled for June 19-23.

summer camps
Young artists at work at The Mattress Factory. Photo courtesy of The Mattress Factory

10. For the installation artist

The Mattress Factory invites students ages 7-13 to spend part of their summer exploring, creating and performing at interactive summer workshops. Students will learn inside a unique museum environment, working directly with practicing artists, and they will exhibit their pieces during a final celebration for friends and family.

“Art Outside” is a camp for ages 7-9 from July 24-28. Campers will focus on outdoor activities and temporary, outdoor installations around them to paint, design and build, using natural materials to create works incorporating Allegheny Commons Park, Winifred’s Garden, and sidewalks near the museum.

Other possibilities are exploring “Let’s Build a City” and “Sound Play – It’s Better Together.”  Check out Summer @ the Factory for more details.

summer camp
Be a star at ‘StarMakers Dance Intensive.’ Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust

11. For the dance artist

“StarMakers Dance Intensive” is part of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust‘s ArtCITY summer camp series. The camp celebrates the diversity of dance in an artistically challenging program for age 8-12. Dynamic teaching artists will lead a rigorous curriculum that focuses on thinking and personal self-expression. As a cultural experience, the program will help campers gain an understanding of their role in a creative, healthy community. Camp ends with a public performance.

 Other ArtCITY camps include “Green Artists & Writers” and the “CEEMI Music Production Camp,” which explores Collaborative Experiential Electronic Musical Instruments.

summer camps
Create a super hero — or be a super hero! Photo courtesy of Carnegie Museum of Art

12. For the super artist

A whole new generation of super hero fans is growing up with enthusiasm for Batman, Spider-Man and Thor. It’s fun to realize that every comic book super hero begins as a gleam in the eye of an artist. In the “Create a Super Hero” camp at Carnegie Museum of Art kids will make up the super hero – or villain — of their dreams. What are their super powers? Who are their enemies? What sort of outfit do they wear? What’s their back story?

Campers will develop original stories, then bring the character to life in drawings and 3-D figures.

Other summer camps at CMoA include equally imaginative themes – like making “Houses for Toys” or the video-game inspired “From Bits to Bricks.” View the entire lineup online.

In case you missed it: Check out 10 great summer camps for kids who love science and nature.

Candy Williams

Candy Williams is a freelance writer and journalist whose articles have appeared in national and local publications. She lives in the South Hills.