Call it the culture cure.
In a Maryland Hall classroom, 6-year-old Lucy Laperouse of Annapolis bounded across the floor like a cheetah as the beat picked up in the “Fast Slow Action Song.“ A moment later, the tempo slowed dramatically and Lucy’s limbs matched a turtle’s leisurely crawl.
Lucy was having so much fun she didn’t realize she was receiving elementary instruction in fractions as she synchronized her movements to the music.
Across the hall, Kalese Slade, 14, of Annapolis inked in the orange hair on her drawing of the animated action hero Kim Possible under the guidance of Maryland Hall’s outreach coordinator Kenneth Starkes.
Kalese is terrific at sketching and even better at writing poetry. She’s been working on incorporating text and images into a single artwork, requiring her to switch back and forth seamlessly between left-brain logic and right-brain intuition.
That’s all the evidence Jackie Coleman and Claudette McDonald need that the arts can help undo damage inflicted on kids during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The impact that COVID has had on learning has been just devastating,” said McDonald, Maryland Hall’s education coordinator. “I’m hearing from teachers that they feel that they’re having to teach everything they would normally cover in two school years in just one.”
Reading and math scores have plummeted across the nation, a study published in March by Washington-DC based Brookings Institute found. What’s worse, the test score gap widened between the poorest schools and their higher-income counterparts. Educators have long known that prison officials look at third grade test scores — the year, Coleman said, that kids go from learning to read to reading to learn — to calculate how many prison cells to build in the future.
“I’m a huge proponent of integrating arts into the curriculum because it benefits the whole person,” said Coleman, Maryland Hall’s executive director.
“We know that not everyone learns in the same way. Some people are kinesthetic learners and some people are auditory learners. Arts instruction activates multiple intelligences.”
A study of 25,000 California students published in 2005 concluded that students who participated in the arts received higher verbal and math scores on their SATs than did students who didn’t act in plays, paint watercolors or perform in a band.
“The arts are a powerful tool,” Coleman said. “They can open the mind and heart and even the soul.”
In Anne Arundel County, arts instruction doesn’t have to stop when the school year ends.
Arts camps are everywhere, from Maryland Hall to the Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation Department’s Abrakadoodle Art Programs, to private musical schools and community theaters. There’s a camp to fit every interest and price point, from free to two-week, preprofessional sessions costing in the four figures. And even the priciest programs offer scholarships.
While this article can’t include every summer arts camp in the county, below are five likely to appeal to a variety of interests.
Children’s Theatre of Annapolis
1661 Bay Head Road, Annapolis. 410-757-2281. childrenstheatreofannapolis.org
The Children’s Theatre of Annapolis, now wrapping up its 63rd season, is the granddaddy of youth programs in Annapolis. The company has been training the performers and crew members of tomorrow since 1959, and has owned its own building for the past dozen years.
Kids ages 5 to 18 can participate in weeklong cabarets ($200-$270) where they practice musical styles ranging from musical theater to hip-hop, or three-week production-intensive camps ($800) in which they will audition for a production, rehearse it and perform it while also participating in skills-building workshops from improvisation to dance.
This summer will focus on two productions: “Disney’s Descendants: The Musical” and “Footloose the Musical: Youth Edition.”
”We give kids a safe environment where they can explore their emotions, creativity and imagination and develop empathy,” said Jason Kimmel, the theater’s education director.
”One of our alumni is a lawyer who says that our camps helped her get over her fear of public speaking. We also have graduates who are dancing on Broadway now.”
Fearless Girls (and Boys) Photography Camps
ArtFarm Studios, 111 Chinquapin Round Road, Suite 200, Annapolis. 443-360-5278. artfarmannapolis.com
ArtFarm is a 4,000 square-foot makers’ space in Annapolis co-created by Darin Gilliam and Alison Harbaugh. In July and August, ArtFarm will offer courses in everything from play production to building props to the fine points of sampling music and beat-making. Prices range from $275 to $475 for weeklong sessions.
But the camps closest to Harbaugh’s heart is her Fearless Girls Photography Camp. This year, for the first time, ArtFarm will offer a photography camp for fearless boys.
Harbaugh was inspired to create the photography workshops when she worked for two years at the Capital Gazette and had to overcome her fear of asking total strangers for permission to snap their images.
”These are empowerment camp,” Harbaugh said.
“I was scared to death to go out and approach people on the street. But I learned to take the camera and turn it around and tell stories in the community. That’s what I teach these kids to do.”
She said that former campers have taken their newfound skills with a camera and used them to earn spending money.
”A bunch of our kids have gone on to create little businesses,” she said. “They photograph babies and graduations and portraits of their friends. It’s really cool to see their confidence grow.”
The Key School, 534 Hillsmere Drive, Annapolis. 410-263-3023. filmstersacademy.com
”What we’re doing is a little crazy,” said Lee Anderson, half of the duo that founded Filmsters Academy Film Studio. ”We take very, very expensive equipment and we put it into the hands of children.”
The Academy teaches the entire creative process of filmmaking, from pitching an idea to writing, performing in, filming and editing movies.
Filmster offers weeklong camps in July and August for beginners ($845), 10-day camps for intermediate students ($1,650) and two-week intensive sessions for advanced students ($1995).
The advanced sessions are by invitation only. But all camps culminate in a mini film festival of movies created by the budding filmmakers.
”We don’t know of any other program like ours in the whole country,” Filmsters co-founder Patti White said. “The top film schools in the country know who our kids are.”
801 Chase St. Annapolis. 410-263-5544. marylandhall.org
During a normal summer, Maryland Hall welcomes 1,200 campers ages 5 to 18 who attend 47 weekly summer camps in the visual arts, dance or music. Kids can create a portrait in glass of their pets, learn the fundamental moves in hip-hop or study guitar with legendary guitar maker Paul Reed Smith.
Because the building is owned by the Anne Arundel County Public Schools, any student enrolled in the system can attend camps and classes for free. Students from private schools and other public districts who wish to enroll will pay between $35 and $475 per session.
Maryland Hall also rents space to private partners, such as Smith’s Naptown Jazz. These private contractors set their own fees, which apply to anyone who enrolls.
”For the past two years, there has been such a lack of personal, human connections,” Coleman said.
“Kids haven’t had the opportunity to process their emotional and social needs. In Europe, someone who is depressed can go to a doctor and get a prescription for an arts experience, and it’s covered by insurance.
“Imagine if the youth in America had the same opportunity.”
School of Rock
The Morning Sun
1460 Ritchie Hwy, Suite 105-106, Arnold. 410-349-1456. https://www.schoolofrock.com/locations/annapolis/music-camps
As his headbanging bandmates bobbed up and down, Top Chotipradit, 13, of Annapolis ripped into the opening chords of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” at the School for Rock in Arnold.
Top’s dad plays the guitar and Top has loved the instrument since he’s been a toddler.
”It’s hard to explain,” he said, “but I can kind of just hear the music. I started playing the guitar three years ago, and I’ve learned really fast.”
This summer, School of Rock is offering seven weeklong summer camps from late June through mid-August for youngsters between 5 and 18 at all skill levels who play guitar, bass, drums, keyboard or sing. Weeklong sessions cost $500 and range from songwriting to pop punk to rock and 90s bands to a session for rookies.
Camps culminate in a concert at the end of the week.
”It’s a great way to practice music that absolutely builds up to something,” Olivia Boehmler, 14, of Edgewater said. “It’s not just mindlessly practicing. Instead, you’re working up to a big goal.”