Local makes good! Artists' Exchange is one of 340 businesses to be honored in the annual RI Monthly Best of RI Awards. The nonprofit arts collaborative opened in 2004 and has steadily grown to become a community hub for classes and events in the arts. It's a place to see a show, with The Black Box Theatre's lively calendar of both in-house productions and those by outside companies. It's a place to take a class, with a wide variety of offerings in everything from drawing to ceramics for kids, teens and adults. It's a place to shop, with a charming little boutique showcasing works by in-house and local artisans. It's a place for artists, with affordable studio space and opportunities to teach and show work. It's also a great place to have a birthday party. And according to RI Monthly, it's THE BEST place in Rhode Island to send your kids for camp.
"It is very satisfying to see the growth of these camps," says Karen Bouchard, Visual Arts Director at Artists' Exchange and coordinator of the summer camps. "What started as a small seed, we have cultivated into something pretty amazing, and I'm so happy that our programs involve kids who have come up through the camps as junior staff along with very talented artists. It's been great to have the freedom to design these camps to create such a close-knit group of people with different backgrounds who care about what we do."
Artists' Exchange offers camps for ages 5-teen in art, theater, rock 'n' roll and ceramics. Weekly themed art camps introduce kids to a variety of mediums from clay to painting to sculpture to reuse and upcycling. Themes include "Summer in the City," "Design a Superhero," "Magical Artists" and "Upcycled Imaginarium." Theater camps immerse kids in every aspect of a full-scale production from writing to costuming to scenery and set design, with a focus on acting.
"Parents always say that our theater camps build confidence in their kids. That's the number one reason many parents sign their kids up for theater camp and we're proud to say that our camps deliver an experience that makes kids believe in themselves," says Rich Morra, Theater Director at Artists' Exchange.
Artists' Exchange's Rock 'n' Roll camp is extremely popular. High energy and action-packed, participants form bands, write songs, make music videos and develop a show they perform for friends and family at the end of the camp.
Teen Ceramics Intensives, a relatively new addition to the summer camp line-up, expose kids to all of the magic of a fully functional pottery studio. They learn the ins and outs of wheel throwing, sculpting, glazing and firing. This year the campers even participated in a Sawdust Barrel Firing, burying their pieces in a steel trash barrel filled with sawdust and materials that created interesting smoke patterns on their finished pieces.
"All of our camps are taught by professional artists," says Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, Director of Artists' Exchange. "I think that's what sets us apart. Having a staff that is as passionate about their craft as they are in sharing it with the next generation makes for an unforgettable experience for these kids."
This year's camps boast record numbers with many camps running at full capacity. Parent evaluations are glowing with praise of the staff, the experience and what they hear from their kids at the end of each day.
Parents may be pleased to know that, aside from giving their kids an experience at the "best camp in Rhode Island," they are also contributing directly to an organization with a mission: to create an atmosphere in which creativity, learning and discovery converge and individuality is celebrated.
Artists' Exchange is located at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston. For more information about their camps, visit www.artists-exchange.org.