Oak Park, Illinois. In the hometown of such artistic greats as Ernest Hemmingway and Frank Lloyd Wright, one Arts District strives to connect local youth with its tight-knit community of professional artists. The Oak Park Arts District (OPAD) Summer Arts Camp is going into its fifth year. The camp started in 2008 amid a handful of art studios and has grown to its current size of roughly 20 participating studios, galleries, and businesses such as Musikgarten of Oak Park, the Buzz Café, Val’s Halla, Art Gecko, Majamas, and the Open Door Repertory Company. This summer, in celebration of its growth, the camp expands to include more focused one-week programs called Intensive Camps and new Apprenticeship Camps for older children and teens.

Registration is now open for all camps online at www.oakparkartsdistrict.com. Studio-hopping for broad arts exposure: The two-week June and August Summer Arts Camps cater to 5-10 year-olds. Children visit at least 10 different studios or businesses exploring a variety of art-forms in professional settings. More focused arts exploration: For July, the OPAD Arts Camp is expanding its half-day, one-week Intensive Program and launching a new one, an Apprenticeship Program which provides whole-day, one-week camps for kids 11 and older.

Sample Intensive Camps: Manga Mania, The Art of the Book, Digital Photography, Fiber Fanatics, Make Your Own Music!, and Summer Dance Intensive. Sample Apprenticeship Camps: Fashion Design, CelebrAsian: Asian Arts and Cultures, Performance Camp: What’s Your Story?, and Eco Arts.

“The need for an Apprenticeship Program for older kids, 11 and up, grew organically. Our young campers kept returning and wanting to return – we had to create programming for them as they got older! It is gratifying to see kids grow through the years and to see their love of the arts deepen,” said Pamela Penney of Pamela Penney Textiles, the founder of the OPAD Arts Camps and current Camp Director.

“When the kids come to our programs, they become part of a vibrant community of professional artists. There’s a lot of excitement across the Oak Park Arts District about the Apprenticeship and Intensive Camps. Our teachers have put a lot of energy into creating innovative programming with the kids in mind. They’re thrilled, for example, to share their love of traditional Chinese jump-rope or the mysterious connections between art and science,” said M.G. Bertulfo, Assistant Camp Director who is coordinating the Apprenticeship and Intensive Camps.

The Oak Park Arts District consists of 9 blocks of businesses, studios, and galleries. OPADBA has 3 main events every year: What’s Blooming on Harrison?, Art on Harrison, and Holiday Lights. Third Friday Gallery Walks take place every month. The OPAD Arts Camps are a way to connect local youth with professional artists and give them opportunities to learn about the business of art from the ones who practice it every day.

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