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Get Your Kids in the Arts This Summer

The summer break has traditionally been a time of rest and rejuvenation for children and their families, a time for vacations and trips to the local pool, of baseball games and Fourth of July cookouts.

But, it should also be a time of activity and learning. Recreation is fine over the summer months, even necessary, but research is showing the detrimental effects of three straight months of video games and lying around the house.

Statistics published by report students lose, on average, 2.6 months worth of math skills over the summer, two months of reading skills and one month of overall learning by the time classes resume in the fall. And, it takes an average of up to two months to make back what was lost on summer break

Students from economically challenged backgrounds fare even worse:  The National Summer Learning Association, a group focused on the achievement gap suffered by low-income public school students, said the cumulative effect of the so-called “summer slide” results in low income students being between 2.5 and 3 years behind their peers by the fifth grade.

The good news is, it doesn’t take much to stop summer learning loss in its tracks–as little as 2 to 3 hours of educational programming per week, according to some experts.

For many students, the arts provide a fun, engaging way to meet this educational requirement and stay sharp through the summer and beyond. The Washington Post reports that among the learning attributes specifically cultivated by an arts-heavy curriculum are creativity, confidence, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

Northwest Arkansas in general is blessed with a number of such artistics outlets for young people, and features opportunities to experience theatre, music and visual arts, specifically catering to young people. The following is a sample of those programs.


Northwest Arkansas’ professional children’s theatre company, Trike Theatre, provides year-round live theatre experiences for the younger set through its schedule of performances. It also provides a slate of summer activities that take youngsters out of the audience and puts them in the middle of the action.

Trike Academy’s series of week-long summer theatre camps, open to pre-k through eighth grade, each focuses on a different theme and skillset.

This year’s camps include Star Wars, June 5 to 9; Wild Things (half day), June 12 to 16; Avengers: Assemble! (half day), June 12 to 16; Fantastic Beasts, June 19-23 and Improv Olympics, June 26 to 30.

July camps include Beauty and the Beast (half day), July 10 to 14; The World of Dr. Seuss (half day) July 10 to 14; Adventures in Narnia, July 17 to 21; Broadway: The Magical Kingdom, July 24 to 28 and Wizards vs. Aliens, July 31 to August 4.

Each camp explores one of more of the following elements of theatre:  Literary concepts, crafts and visual art, movement and dance, improvisation, music and singing, a Friday performance sharing… or to simply explore all the arts – performance and visual – through fun, imaginative activities. Scholarships are available to those who qualify.

In addition, Trike supports two camps in the summer for young actors looking for a more in-depth experience. Youth Theatre is a three-week theatre camp that expose young actors to professional directors, designers and stage manager. Little Trikes is a performance series that caters to audience members as young as 2 and gives families the opportunity to provide an early start on experiencing and appreciating live theatre.


The renowned museum draws thousands of visitors every year, not the least of which are children and families, with its world-class exhibits and its slate of activities specifically focusing on introducing youngsters to the world of art at an early age.

Besides exploring the 3.5 miles of art trails and permanent collection galleries, general admission to which is free of charge, the museum features free drop-in activities and an ‘experience art’ studio where budding young artists can create to their heart’s content.

The organization also sponsors a list of summer art camp opportunities from June to August. Half-day camps include Art and Nature, June 12 to June 16; Pop Art, June 2 to 16; Color and Light, July 17 to 21; Art Adventures, July 17 to 21, Fashion Camp, July 17 to 21 and Creative Kids, July 24 to 28.

Full-day camps include Imaginate and Create, June 19 to 23; Art+Game=Technology, July 10 to 14; and Movie Making, July 10 to 14.

Art center of the ozarks

Art Center of the Ozarks is looking forward to being part of the ongoing revitalization of downtown Springdale, while rejuvenating itself for the challenges of competing for patrons and participation.

The 50-year-old art institution recently hired a new executive director and has even collaborated with a startup consultant to help bring its programs and appeal current with the times.

Besides being interesting and fun, the ACO’s slate of summer camps offer families scheduling flexibility, as campers can attend either a half-day or full-day schedule as they wish. It’s also a bargain, at just $75 per week for half-day participants and $120 per week for full-day campers, supplies included, far less than other programs in the area. And that’s before applying available multi-child discounts and scholarships.

There’s five weeks’ worth of summer camp programming, including Art Outdoors, June 12 to 16; Hippie Modernist, June 19 to 23; Paint Super Power, June 26 to 30; Street Art My heart, July 10 to 14 and Clay & 3-D Creations, July 17-21.

The ACO also provides creative outlet in theatre, drawing from the community for actors in various shows, from rank novice to the professional and for all ages and abilities. Current audition information is posted on the organization’s website.

Arkansas Philharmonic orchestra

Northwest Arkansas’ resident orchestra is all about the experience when it comes to younger patrons. Virtually all of the performances are approachable for families and through special pricing, APO makes it affordable to bring along the kids for a taste of classical music.

Selected performances also blend music with other art forms, such as concerts that partner with NWA Ballet Theatre.

APO does not host summer camps like other art entities, but it does support a youth orchestra during the school year, which includes a graduated series of ensembles that cater to musicians of varying levels of experience.

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