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Activities / Children / Colorado Livin' / Creative Corner / Events

A brush with art colors kids happy

The Denver Art Museum on one of its dozen free days a year is about what you’d expect: wall-to-wall families and happy young faces.

The difference between this kids’ scene and many others around town is that here, family fun involves making, or learning about, art.

James and Becca Dwyer of Englewood recently visited the museum with their families two weekends in a row. While James, 7, was fiddling with shells matched to artwork in the museum, Becca, 3½, was gluing colors to a drawing of a camel. “Then I’m going to color some black on a teapot,” she explained, not looking up from her work.

Here is a sampling of similar family destinations where kids can learn to make art — or simply revel in art- related fun.

1. The Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

The center offers classes called Creative Play Group, Mini Picassos and Kinder Clay for kids as young as 18 months, said center spokesman Jerry Cunningham.

It also offers drawing and cartooning classes for older kids, as well as the chance to view the museum’s galleries as part of some of the classes. Instructors all are artists or art educators. Some discounts are available for center members.

The goal, said Cunningham, is to expose children to a variety of art experiences in this multidisciplinary venue. 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, 720-898-7200,

2. Foothills Art Center

This nonprofit housed in two historic buildings offers classes in several age-based groupings for kids 3 to 12. The instructors, all trained teachers and artists, focus on the basics of drawing, painting, mixed media and jewelry design, said Michael Chavez, curator of exhibitions and education.

Days and times vary depending on the demand for classes. There are discounts for center members and siblings, and there are no materials fee.

“What we are trying to do is create the building blocks early,” Chavez said. The program is progressive, meaning that younger students learn basic techniques and then move up to the next level. 809 15th St., Golden, 303-279-3922, foothillsart

3. The Denver Art Museum

The 356,000-square-foot museum complex offers both interactive and viewing opportunities for kids and parents. On weekends, families can pick up Art Tubes, which include art projects for kids, and Family Backpacks, which hold art projects and other activities, said museum spokeswoman Kristy Bassuener.

Hot spots are places in the galleries on weekends where kids can interact with art aided by museum staff members.

Another children’s activity, called Creative Playdate, invites 3- to 5-year-olds and their parents to drop by one day a month to create with clay, listen to stories and play art games. And there’s a Family Center, open daily, where kids can do art projects, put on costumes and play art-themed games.

The museum’s goal, said Bassuener, is to make art relevant to kids by providing connections between them and the museum’s collections. “They don’t want to hear an art history lecture,” she said. “It’s just about having a good time with art.”

All these activities are free for museum members and free with paid admission for nonmembers. 100 W. 14th Ave., 720-865-5000,

4. Meininger Fine Art Supplies

This long-operating art-supplies retailer has classes in April for children ages 6 to 12, or 8 to 12 in such disciplines as watercolor, monoprints, sculpture and stained glass. The classes are free and meet after school on Fridays.

The instructors are students in the art- education program at the Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design, said Amy Fleisch man, Meininger’s marketing and events coordinator. There is no registration, but seating is limited. The program’s goal is to provide kids with an opportunity to make art outside of the traditional classroom setting, Fleisch man said. 499 Broadway, 303-698-3838,

5. The Art Students League of Denver

This school, where students learn from working artists, offers a host of instruction and after-school programs. Regular offerings include programs for kindergartners through 11th graders, and others occasionally are available for preschoolers.

Instruction focuses on fundamentals, said Cindy Sewell, the league’s marketing and public relations director. All instructors have degrees either in arts education or fine arts, and many classes are taught by practicing artists. The teen class is led by Tony Ortega, a highly recognized local artist who holds a master of fine arts degree.

Parents pay only for classes students attend instead of registering for a block of classes.

The goal of the community arts school is to provide arts education of students of all ages and levels, Sewell said, and “to take individuals along their creative paths.” 200 Grant St., 303-778-6990,

6. The Jewish Community Center

A comprehensive family center open to people of any denomination, the center offers five-week sessions of art classes, one for ages 15 months up to 3 years and another for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The program for the younger kids allows them to “explore the world of textures, colors, shapes and self-expression,” said family programs coordinator Jill Katchen. They enjoy finger paints, Play-Doh, chalk and working on their dexterity with these materials.

The older kids have the opportunity to explore artistic themes independently of their parents, who can wait in another part of the center.

A preschool art teacher supervises both groups, which are less focused on projects than on the artistic experience, Katchen said.

There are separate charges for center members and nonmembers, plus fees for materials. 350 S. Dahlia St., 303-316-6336,

7. Color Me Mine

This franchised retail operation specializes in providing pottery for kids (and adults) to paint. Customers select from previously fired pottery, paint to their hearts’ desire, then return the pieces to be fired again.

“You leave the mess on the table,” said Alice Finning, one of the owners of two locations, in the Lowry Town Center (200 Quebec St., Bldg. 600, Unit 127, 303-360-8422) and another in Centennial (6955 S. York St., Suite 415, 303-795-3442).

“I fell into it accidentally,” Finning said. “My granddaughter went to one, and really loved it.”

Babies can make handprints and footprints, and toddlers can finger paint, while older kids can be as creative as they like. The staff might make suggestions to young artists or demonstrate a technique, but generally the kids are left to their own creative devices, said assistant manager Jacque Mudd. Customers pay by the piece, plus a studio fee.

On a recent Sunday, Kayla Schilz, daughter of John and Lechelle Schilz of Denver, was surrounded by friends at the Lowry Color Me Mine for her seventh birthday party. Already a veteran of painting on pottery and paper, Kayla was decorating a Cinderella box. Various metro locations,

8. Curtis Arts & Humanities Center

An arm of the city of Greenwood Village, this outpost offers art classes for kids ages 9 and up.

“It’s amazing that kids that age are interested in sitting still and drawing,” said Jo Cole, cultural arts coordinator, of the four-week sessions of classes after school on Fridays. “We want them to see that art can be fun but it takes skill.”

The instructors are all professional teachers and artists, and Greenwood Village residents are reimbursed part of the fee.

2349 E. Orchard Road, Greenwood Village, 303-797-1779,

-By Michael Rudeen. Photos: Karl Gehring

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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