- By supernovamommy
- 23 April, 2012
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Art at the Center is a studio lab designed for kids and families in Northern Virginia. They hold classes, camps, workshops, and are all about giving back to the community and using natural and recycled art materials. Art classes are offered for children as early as 18 months. Check out my interview with Art at the Center Founder, Kathryn Horn Coneway.
1) Please share with us the inspiration behind starting Art at the Center?
I began Art at the Center with a friend, Teresa Evans who specialized in early childhood. We wanted a place where kids could have the freedom to explore materials and parents could get guidance and develop a community for exploring and creating with their kids. Teresa has since retired, but the community has expanded to include other artists and parents in the community as well as graduate students from George Washington University.
My personal inspiration came from growing up in a house full of art materials for drawing, painting, building and sewing and looking back it was a wonderful way to create, share and tell stories. Additionally, once I began my own family, I realized how my home was unique in offering so many artistic materials to my kids and friends would come to me for guidance on how to create with their kids. I had more ideas than time to try them all just in my family and I looked for a creative community for them, but did not find any. So I decided to start a community of my own.
2) What impacts your decisions for choosing which classes to offer?
Beginning with early childhood in mind has had a big impact as we have grown. Not many people realize that the academic definition of early childhood is birth to age 8. We so often think of early childhood as ending with preschool. In fact, all kids really benefit from opportunities for hands-on learning, exploring and meaning making. By seeing the arts as languages we give kids a wonderful additional opportunity for creative expression, exploration of ideas and connecting with others.
3) What can families expect at a typical “Art at the Center” class?
All our classes offer a choice-based open-ended approach. Choice-based means that we will offer students a wide range of material – paint, clay, collage, crayons, pastels, pencils- and they can work with whatever material inspires them. Open-ended means that we do not direct young artist through a craft-like activity, but allow them to create what they like. Instruction is designed to introduce media and then support children in working on subjects of personal interest. You will often find a wide variety of media being used at one time in an Art at the Center class. We rotate through a variety of media and techniques with drawing, painting and collage as well. In most of our classes, clay is a favorite. Younger children focus more on the process and the sensory experience of clay while older children move toward creating and firing pots and sculpture. Other times you may see a whole class working on self portraits. Ideas tend to be contagious and my favorite dynamic is when a group of students explores an art concept together that has been inspired by a member of the group. There are wonderful opportunities for collaboration, persistence and problem solving in building.
4) How does “Art at the Center” support the surrounding community?
We offer seasonal community art events that are free and open to the public. At each of these events we ask for a donation for a local charity. For our September chalk draw we collect school supplies. For our winter light painting event we collect new unwrapped toys. Additionally, we do most of our advertising through local civic associations, schools and silent auctions. We also offer training events for teachers and parents and I write a blog for the local Fort Hunt Patch with ideas for art at home. Our goal is to be a center and resource for arts in the community. We want to foster connections through creativity.
5) Do you have any future plans for your business?
Enrollment in classes are a good size for our space right now. I am interested in sharing some of the things I have learned working with families in the studio with more parents and teachers through our Early Childhood Art Focus group and additional online resources. I am currently working on a couple children’s books with stories that offer ideas for exploring art materials with children.
6) As a parent in Northern VA, tell us some of your favorite kid-friendly places to visit.
Museums – right now I am looking forward to taking my kids to the Suprasensorial exhibit at the Hirshhorn museum. At sunset, there is a first-ever projection in the round on the outside of the building. I also love the National Building Museum and just exposing my children to the wonderful architecture of the mall. The museum of American History has some great hands-on exhibits for kids.