Many families are looking for activities to keep their children busy during the summer break.
If they want something other than soccer camp or run-of-the-mill arts and crafts, the Palmetto Art Center, 907 5th St. W., will be offering a variety of classes during its summer camp program that should pique the interest of most children.
“We have a set of unique classes because they’re all small,” said Gretchen Leclezio, founder of the Art Center.
“Our classes will have a maximum of eight students,” Leclezio said, “allowing us to give each one individual attention.”
The first week of camp starts June 13 with the kids getting their hands dirty throwing clay onto a pottery wheel.
This is for campers age 7 and up.
Leclezio, who will teach this class, said although operating a pottery wheel can be daunting even for grownups, she uses a special technique in teaching children how to center their clay and form a piece.
“They will be making a bowl by the second day,” she said.
During the second week Leclezio will add the study of nature to the clay hand-building class and campers will get their inspiration from the land and sea.
“We’ll sculpt a bird, build a bird bath, and learn about fossils,” she said.
If the children are more interested in what goes on in the kitchen than in the studio, there are two classes starting June 20 for them.
From 10:30 a.m. to noon, Barbara Vedder will be teaching a class called Little Chefs in the Kitchen.
“This is for 4- to 6-year-olds,” Leclezio said. “A lot of younger children don’t get this kind of enrichment.”
The youngsters will learn how to follow a recipe and make pancakes, pies, cinnamon rolls and other “good eats.”
And for the children 9 and up, Vedder will be teaching a baking and desserts class from 1 to 3 p.m. that week.
“Everything is made from scratch,” Leclezio said, “and Barbara is well qualified to teach this class.
“She has extensive studies in the pastry arts,” she said.
For the campers who are not into clay or sweet dough, there are classes in felting, wool spinning or drama.
And there also is a class that combines reading with visual arts.
Campers ages 6 through 9 will read a book each day, then create a work of art based on the story.
But Leclezio said grownups need to play, too, so the Palmetto Art Center will hold summer camp for adults, with classes in clay, zumba workouts and painting.
Leclezio started the Art Center in 2008 and knew then that she was going to offer the community activities that go beyond the traditional art classes.
The Center offers classes in yoga, pilates, tai chi and zumba, along with painting, drawing and working with clay.
“Movement is art,” Leclezio said, in explaining why she decided to offer so many bodywork classes.
Another service the Palmetto Art Center offers the community is home-school classes.
“The home-school community said they needed a place for hands-on art,” Leclezio said. “So that’s how that started.”
Wendy Marble, head of art education for the Art Center, teaches the home-school classes.
“I’m fascinated with the emotional and physical needs of the students,” said Marble, who has a fine arts degree from the University of South Florida.
“I can form close relationships with them because of the small number of students in the classes,” she said.
For April Baxter, the home-school classes in art have helped her daughter, Emma, to focus.
“They stimulate Emma’s creativity,” Baxter said, “and help her become more disciplined on how to manage projects.”
She also liked how Marble links art to other subjects, such as history or science.
“Wendy does a beautiful job,” Baxter said. “She allows the students to express themselves in a nurturing environment.”
For more information about summer camp and classes at the Palmetto Art Center, visit its website at www.palmettoartcenter.com.