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Picasso, age 6
Kaila and Khiara Lewis, students of the Creative Studio class, cut out monstrous shapes to bind together into out-of-this-world aliens.
A classroom full of tweens frantically sketched out monstrous torsos, hands, heads, and assorted tentacle-like appendages on Thursday morning with a simple goal in mind: To create the coolest-looking alien in the class.
As arms were bound to bodies with brass brads, extraterrestrial figures took form and joined the solar systems, starscapes, and out of this world pottery that cluttered an alcove of the War Memorial.
These intergalactic artists — along with a gaggle of 5- to 7-year olds decorating circus-themed puppets just a few doors down — were sent on their artistic odysseys as a part the first week of the City of Turlock’s summer youth art classes.
Students of the Mini Picassos and Creative Studio classes were given the opportunity to explore a variety of artistic mediums and techniques throughout the week-long sessions, ranging from mosaics to print making. The only unifying threads for the classes were predefined themes of Space Exploration for the Creative Studio and Three-Ring Circus for the Mini Picassos.
“These classes are not set up to be art instruction where you sit down and learn how to draw a still-life,” said Turlock Arts Facilitator Lisa McDermott. “These really are about letting kids explore their own ideas and creative impulses.”
The classes’ curriculum calls for as many as three different art projects each day, though instructors dynamically modify the agenda to keep children excited.
McDermott related a tale from a dinosaur-themed session a few years back when students were asked to make puppets one day. Excitement about puppetry spread throughout the classroom, and the hour-long activity quickly stretched to two days as students jumped at the prospect of constructing a set and staging a puppet play.
“The kids were being creative in a way that mattered to them,” McDermott said, “not being forced into doing things a certain way.”
Themes for the remainder of the summer range from “Sand ‘n Surf” to “Myths & Legends,” offering topics that could pique the interest of just about any curious child. For those children who refuse to be constrained by any predefined ideas and just want to run wild with their imaginations, “Creation Lab” sessions offer even more free form artistic instruction with no set themes.
There are six more sessions of the City of Turlock’s youth art classes this summer, the last of which wraps up Aug. 6. McDermott said the city has seen a strong demand for the programs, now in their sixth year, and waiting lists have already been established for the next two weeks of classes.
While the strong demand can be attributed to children’s enjoyment of the program, as many sign up for subsequent weeks after their first taste of the classes, parents seem to enjoy the program too. After all, where else can rambunctious, artistic youth find a place — other than their parents’ walls — to practice their painting this summer?
“It’s a controlled crazy and it’s a creative crazy,” McDermott said of the classes, with a laugh.
Classes cost $60 and run from 9 a.m. until noon Monday through Thursday.
To enroll in Turlock youth art classes, visit, call 668-5594, or stop by the Recreation Division offices at 301 Starr Ave. between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.