Summer with the Arts Councils

girl_painting-300The signs are there. The days are getting longer. The trees have leaves. The smell of barbecued food wafts through the neighborhood. The inevitable is soon upon us. It seems benign enough at the beginning, just a small hand curled around the woodwork of the doorframe. Soon an eye appears and then a pair of eyes. Before you know it your child has slunk into the room and plopped boneless into a chair, sighed and uttered the words every parent fears, “I’m bored.” Yes, summer vacation is on the horizon and your house will soon look like a bunch of circus performers have suddenly decided to decamp.
 What you might be looking for is a good summer music program. Now if the posh, sleep-away camps like Young Musicians & Artists camp in Oregon, the Long Lake Camp for the Arts in New York or the Independent Lake Camp in Pennsylvania are financially out of your league or interfere with your summer schedules, there are also plenty of day camps scattered around the country. The rock camp Day Jams in Connecticut (they also have other 20 other camps around the country) or the World of Discovery Day Camp in New York might be an option for your little cherubs.Now if you haven’t spent all winter long leafing through brochures, mounting thorough investigations, including background checks, looking for just the right camp or if your family is feeling the squeeze of outrageous gas prices I have the perfect solution – your local arts council. No offense to residential and day camps, but perfectly wonderful music and art classes can be found a short distance away at arts councils all across this country.

Brother and Sister Playing the Piano TogetherFilled with music, dance, arts and craft classes, most local arts councils offer affordable fun throughout the summer for children of all ages, including teens. Many offer day camp specials that will keep the little dears busy with a mountain of projects and off the streets without breaking your budget. Our local Durham Arts Council is offering a 9am to 2pm mini-camp program that is a mere $25 a day or an all day program (9am to 5:30pm) priced at $43 a day. They offer a wide array of visual and performing arts for a price that rivals many babysitters and daycares. They even go so far as to offer scholarships to poorer students.
 Beyond keeping your kids entertained and busy, music and art will keep their little minds sharp throughout the summer. You may have to put up with an endless loop of “Greensleeves” played on a plastic recorder or obligated to openly display those globby clay sculptures around your house, but they won’t be bored and that’s point of keeping your kids engaged. An added benefit is that they might meet some new friends along the way.
 The most important benefit might be your contribution to local artists and musicians, art teachers and music mentors in your community. With dwindling budgets, many arts councils struggle just to keep afloat. Supporting the local arts means you are invested in your community and that the arts mean something to you. Studies have shown that cities and towns with a thriving arts community are more likely to attract jobs, see an increase in economic development and boast bigger tourism.
 Adults shouldn’t forget that there’s plenty for them at their local art council. Proof is at our own Durham Arts Council this summer with classes in beginning guitar, basic salsa and street jazz and hip hop. Hey, by the end of the summer you could be ready for Dancing with the Stars or American Idol, you never know.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.