by Rachel Cutler, educator and resident artist
It was the second week of June when we began our preliminary plans for an outdoor summer art program for local children. Governor Lamont set forth policies for what day camps would like in Connecticut during the pandemic. Undoubtedly, these were unprecedented circumstances, but we felt confident we could create an educational, fun, and, most of all, safe program for our youth.
Our Director of Education, Kate Ebner, and I brainstormed the lesson plans and worked out the logistics. Then, we lovingly named our new creation “Summer on the Hill.”
The weeks flew by as we finalized the details, and soon enough, the first day of the program was upon us. I’ll never forget the looks of uncertainty on the young attendee’s faces as they stood masked and distanced in the Sunken Garden. While reading out the new rules, I also felt a twinge of anxiety. I had directed and led camps before, but none quite like this. Luckily, the uncertainty and nervousness were short-lived. Laughter filled the air as we raced towards the sheep pasture, material packets in hand to sketch out the landscape on that sunny July day.
It is incredible how quickly kids can adapt to circumstances. The students who participated in our program handled the new guidelines thoughtfully and graciously. They respected one another’s space and took full advantage of our sprawling grounds.
Our program helpers, Ben McGowen, a student from the University of Rochester; Annie Wertheimer, a Hobart College student; and Angela Yuan from Miss Porters, were attentive and upbeat. They brought smiles each day and successfully aided attendees at a distance. We were farther apart, but we still shared our love of art, humor, and experiences.
The program ran for four weeks in July and August on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 am to noon. During these mornings, students ages 9 to14 would gather and participate in a variety of activities. Each session would begin with a short hike and field sketching. Then we would create the masterpiece of the day, focusing on a new medium, whether that is watercolor, pastels, markers, pencil, and crayons. Fun games included one-minute modeling with goofy poses, create a new animal, and art jeopardy.
Summer on the Hill was such a success that it is now a seasonal staple: Our current program, Autumn on the Hill, is running until late October. Nature hikes, animal identification, outdoor art, and games compose each week!
Last week, I spent the afternoon hunting frogs with a group of nature savvy youngsters. It made me realize how important getting outdoors and having a little adventure can be!
If you would like to join our Autumn on the Hill program, please visit Autumn on the Hill. Each week is a new theme and new adventure!