Kids Brush up on Creativity at TNCS Summer Camp with the Painting Workshop!


Elisabeth Willis, Painting Workshop and TNCS Art Instructor

Summer sessions at The New Century School continue with an exciting block of camps hosted by The Painting Workshop. Led by TNCS art teacher Elisabeth Willis, art camp gives kids the chance to learn new techniques and try out new media while tapping into and expressing their creativity. Each day, they work on one painting/project as well as get lots of free-drawing time and afternoon crafts. Their sole job is to make art, and they really give themselves over to the process.

As the artist-campers experiment with colors, patterns, and brush maneuvers to their hearts’ content, Ms. Willis moves through the classroom, responding to questions and comments. “What do yellow and orange make? What about blue and pink and white?” they might ask. “Why don’t you try it out?” is the unfailingly encouraging response. This camp emphasizes exploration and the freedom to self-express and get creative . . . and even a little messy sometimes!



Despite all the “self-expression,” going on, the atmosphere is calm and productive. Spills and accidents are handled without fuss, and the kids are gently reminded to keep working until they finish. Ms. Willis is no stranger to the art classroom and brings an impressive amount of experience to her role. She has both a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Art History and a Masters in Art and Teaching from Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA). She freelanced after graduating in 2011 to spend time on her art, has spent several years with The Painting Workshop, and took over as TNCS art teacher this year.

Typical Day


Sample creature and habitat

The day starts out with free draw (and each child gets a folder to collect their drawings to bring home at week’s end). About midmorning when everyone has gotten the wiggles (and the squiggles) out, they move on to the main project of the day. Ms. Willis gives step-by-step instructions and demonstrations, and campers get to it. One day recently, for example, Ms. Willis was exploring habitats in three dimensions. she sketched out a model on the whiteboard and then demonstrated how to model a figure (e.g., animal, alien, made-up creature, person) in clay (neon hued, naturally. The next task was to build a habitat for the figure out of paper, felt, pipe cleaners, beads, etc.; their challenge was to give the structure height. Each camper met the challenge but their habitats share almost nothing else in common!


Hard at work, painting away

Hard at work, painting away.


Each week features a different theme to spark kids’ imaginations and get the creative juices flowing.

Week 1 (June 20–24): Art and Nature The outside world comes alive in this camp where we are inspired by nature. From leaf rubbings and clay pressings, to plein-air painting, and sponge paintings of trees, we celebrate nature through our art!

Week 2 (June 27–July 1): Art and Science Environmental science, chemistry, geology and geography can all be accessed through art. Whether we are making casts of dinosaur bones, or combining various ingredients to make lava for a volcano or to create the best goo, the most pliable clay, or a resistant glue, science is present, and art is the result. We’ll have lots of fun projects, experiments, and fun in this week of camp!

Week 3 (July 5–July 8): Modern Art and You Join us as we explore the world of modern art. From Andy Warhol’s soup cans to Robert Rauschenberg’s constructions, Jackson Pollack’s drip paintings to Barbara Hepworth’s sculpture, we will take a look at their techniques and ideas to inspire our own. Abstract art, conceptual art, collage, sculpture, multi-media, drawing, and painting are all covered in this fun and inspiring class.

Week 4 (July 11–15): Art Around the World Let’s take a trip around the world, exploring art as we go. Stop in Australia and discover aboriginal art. Create your own ancient Greek vase. Explore the calligraphy and printmaking of Japan, the Batik textiles of Indonesia, the landscapes of France and Italy. Art and culture—around the world!

tncs-painting-workshop-summer-campWeek 5 (July 18–22): Under the Sea Water covers more than two thirds of our planet. Within it, we find amphibious life of all description and fauna and flora that exist only in the mysterious world of the sea. This camp celebrates the waters of planet Earth through painting, drawings, sculpture, and—of course—the use of water in art projects! The geology of the ocean, the uses of the ocean, the wonder of the sea—it’s a watery week of imaginative fun!

Week 6 (July 25–29): Creatures Great and Small The world of animals, insects, and birds is magical and inspiring. Join us as we use art to both represent and interpret the animal world. From basic paintings of dogs and cats, to sock monkey puppets, to animal habitats (think jungles and the sea!), we will explore the lively and mysterious world of the creatures that share our planet. Camp may include a visit from a friendly canine, or a lesson from Brittany Roger of The Drawing Zoo, who brings reptiles to drawing classes! Join us for this lively and entertaining week!

Week 7 (August 1–5): Let’s Build! Sculpture Camp This sculpture class incorporates not just clay, but also wood, paper, plaster, and more. Students learn how to build armatures, so that their creations are strong and sturdy, and how to add the finishing touches with paint. We might build something realistic—a rocket ship, a house, an animal—or it could be something abstract such as a beautiful assemblage of colors and shapes. Stretch your imagination and your skills in this fun class!

Week 8 (August 8–12): Art and Stories What are the stories we tell about our paintings? What are the paintings we create from stories? Older campers will write their own stories and poems, while younger ones can create a backdrop to stories told to them, read to them, or created out of their imagination. We will explore graphic design, illustration, painting, drawing, printmaking, and collage. There will even be a visit from a professional storyteller! Join us for a fun and creative week of words, stories, tall tales, and art!

Week 9 (August 15–19): Space Camp What do we see when we look into outer space? Stars, comets, planets, and aliens! Beautiful constellations, fascinating planet mobiles, our own spaceships—anything is possible in this fun week of space exploration!


Cotton swab loom!

Would you like to register your child(ren) in this engaging and creative camp? Please go here.

Strengthening Friendships, Creating Art: TNCS Welcomes Back Baltimore Love Project

Welcome BLP!

Over two art lessons, BLP helped TNCS elementary students understand what public art is and how it can help communities.

In “Baltimore Love Project” last fall, we profiled artist Michael Owen’s and executive director Scott Burkholder’s joint mission to connect people through public art. With the goal of painting 20 LOVE murals across Baltimore city, they have made significant progress in that lofty aim; as of this writing they have completed 16. They returned to The New Century School in March to update TNCS on their progress and their future plans as well as to teach the elementary students about public art.

Mr. Burkholder was first to visit the elementary kids’ art class, and Mr. Owen stopped by 2 days later. Presenting to schoolchildren is something Baltimore Love Project (BLP) does frequently because kids are so receptive to their message, but TNCS elementary students were their youngest group so far. Mr. Burkholder began by asking the group, “What is art?” to which he received some pretty insightful answers, such as “art is a mixture of colors . . . imagination” and “art is making up your own theme.” He next showed the group several slides and asked whether what was depicted there qualified as art. When a Mark Rothko abstract painting flashed up on the projector screen, one boy said, “I see a portal leading to an imaginary scene . . .” (yes—he really said “portal!”) and another said, “it makes me feel really weird” and turned away. Needless to say, there were a lot of laughs that day!

BLP executive director Scott Burkholder

BLP executive director Scott Burkholder visited TNCS elementary art class March 19th.

Once the merriment died down, the group talked about different kinds of art—sculpture, music, performance art, collage, television shows, even cooking. “Humans use art,” said Mr. Burkholder, to “tell how we feel, to express an idea.” And with that, he threw out the “biggie.”

Why Does Art Matter?

The elementary students initially had mostly practical answers to this question, such as, “without art, we couldn’t make buildings,” but Mr. Burkholder pushed them to examine a deeper meaning. With Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother up on the screen, he explained that art should evoke strong feelings and encourage discussion. “Art gives us the opportunity to engage with it and with what the artist may have been feeling. It helps us think about what we are feeling, too,” he said. Art also helps us understand what our world is really like or puts a face to a story that might have otherwise been overlooked, such as the Lange photography does. Or, art might express something you wish were true. “It’s powerful to be able to share your ideas about the world with other people,” said Mr. Burkholder, “If you have the opportunity to change the way people think, then you can change how they act.” With art, he says, you can change the world.

TNCS elementary art class

The elementary students wax poetic on their feelings about art with Baltimore Love Project’s Scott Burkholder.

As the visit drew to a close, the kids turned the tables on Mr. Burkholder, putting him on the spot. One girl asked him what he hopes to accomplish in his lifetime. It was a surprisingly mature question and revealed that she had really taken in his message. Mr. Burkholder did not miss a beat, however, and said simply, “I would like to help people value art.”

Q&A with Michael Owen

BLP artist Michael Owen demonstrated how collaborating on art can change environments and cultures in meaningful ways.

DIY Muraling

Mr. Owen’s visit took a slightly different tack, as you may have guessed it would. “I came here to show you some secrets about mural painting,” announced Baltimore’s reigning mural king. He showed the kids a time-lapse video of himself painting a LOVE mural (see it here) and then gave them the four-step list of instructions he uses for the BLP:

  1. Project a picture on a large vertical surface (i.e., a wall).
  2. Trace the picture with sidewalk chalk or pencil.
  3. Paint it in with primer.
  4. One day later, cover over with black paint.

Voilà! Mr. Owen then asked the kids what a LOVE mural makes them think of, feel, or do. Their responses ranged from profound to poignant. “It stops people from fighting,” said one; “I imagine what a lovely place Baltimore is,” said another. “It makes me think of the loved ones I’ve lost,” said one girl, tearing up. Mr. Owen must be accustomed to having such an effect on people. After all, he creates those murals, he says, “to inspire people to show how they love each other.” What really must have blown him away, though, was the response he got when he asked why the hands spelling out L-O-V-E on each mural are in black. “They can be anybody’s hands,” he began. “But there are four of them,” interrupted one child, “so it takes two people. That’s how the love starts to spread.”


TNCS elementary students sketch out their ideas for the mural.

By now the kids were literally itching to make some art. Inspired? Definitely. Having allowed all of their feelings and ideas to surface, they were now ready to turn them into something beautiful. “Have fun drawing,” said Mr. Owen, and rushed off to go inspire more people.

TNCS Kids Paint a . . .

Mural! Surprise! Art teacher Jenny Raccuglia said having BLP present was “really a very special treat.” Her idea all along was to have this lesson on public art culminate with her class creating their own mural. Like BLP, the students also wanted their mural concept to center on an inspirational word. There are currently more than 10 elementary students, so they needed a nice, big word to give each kid equal canvas space. See for yourselves what word these clever kids brought to colorful, glorious life in their collaborative work.

Friendship mural

The finished product shows friendship as conceptualized by the TNCS elementary students but also represents friendship in another way: the students joined together—engaged in this project together—in an act of joyful creation. It was made by friends to spread friendship. Way to go, kids!

“This engagement,” said Scott Burkholder, “is what it’s all about. . . In our society, we tend to appreciate art because of craft and aesthetic, but we miss important aspects like the idea, the concept.” Getting people engaged, talking, thinking—that’s the true value of art.