Young at Art – Meet the Teachers

Each summer, ACA welcomes its smallest campers to the Young at Art, a morning camp for 4-5 year olds.  This year, we have three new enthusiastic and energetic teachers for our young campers.  We are excited to welcome Robert, Shooka and Ashley – read more about them below!

Young at Art runs in weekly sessions through Labor Day, come join us!


For the past ten years, Robert Rogers and his students of all ages have tromped through forests, zoos, museums, and even classrooms making music, theater, and mayhem. But gentle mayhem. Good mayhem. One afternoon, his students watched a goat give birth. They composed a song of celebration on the spot and marched it to all four corners of the farm. When indoors, Robert can be found writing plays and directing musicals for children, and performing lead roles in community theater and musicals. He graduated from the Kennedy Center Training Program for Emerging Playwrights as well as the American Conservatory and Asolo Conservatory Theater residency programs. Robert holds an MFA in Playwriting for Young Audiences from Lesley University and is Early Childhood Certified in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

He loves to skate, ski, and skimboard. Alas, despite years of training and a Masters degree in mathematics, he remains incurably silly.



“Music, life and enjoyment are three inseparable concepts!”  That is the basis of Shooka Afshar’s philosophy of music.  Kids in Shooka’s classes learn to open their ears to music and harmony and to experience the power of music.   She teaches rhythm, toddler tunes, group dancing and other fun activities, all using the Dacrozian Methods, through which students use movement to learn about music.

Shooka herself fell in love with music and performing at an early age.  She watched her first classical concert on a vhs at the age four and instantly decided to become an opera singer.  She started learning piano by ear and never stopped performing.

Shooka was awarded her BA and then completed her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance at Longy School of Music. In addition to teaching in schools and the Community Music Center of Boston, Shooka also teaches flute, piano and voice to individual students.


AshleyYarnellAshley Yarnell has been performing all over the New England area since a very young age, and made her professional debut at the Publick Theatre Boston at the age of 12. Since then she has continued to pursue her love of music and all things theatrical, completing her BFA in Musical Theatre from the renowned Pace University in New York City, where she was able to partake in Master Classes with such industry names as: Jack O’Brien, Joanna Gleason, David Stone, Stephen Flaherty, Michael Greif, Victoria Clark, Jerry Mitchell, Adam Guettel, Donna Drake, Curtil Holbrook, Lonny Price, and Bob Cline. She has also performed professionally with: Rachel York, Patrick Cassidy, Lee Meriwether, and dance icon Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Following undergraduate study, Ashley decided to branch out from the musical theatre world of performing and into the world of teaching and contemporary music. She completed graduate coursework in Vocal Pedagogy, Jazz Vocals, World Music, Choral Conducting, and General Music Education at the University of Massachusetts. Since graduating in 2008, she has built up a plethora of students throughout the New England area and is extremely excited to be teaching in the very town she grew up in and inspired her love and desire for a musical life. An avid composer/lyricist as well, Ashley is looking to continue to perform and write for the live rock/blues/acoustic scene.


BEE the Change

970172_10151941566901324_7809360038521488933_nIn honor of Earth Week, ACA teamed up with Arlington’s Whole Foods to talk about the health of our earth, natural processes, like pollination and how we can help.  Together, we came up with the art installation, Bee the Change, which is on view at the Arlington Whole Foods on Mass Ave.



During our week long Vacation Arts Camp in April, our team of campers and staff made bees from recycled materials.  We used paper tubes, posters and old advertisements donated by Whole Foods.  We also reused their banners and painted signs to to display in the store.



IMG_2606All totaled, our campers made over 150 bees of all sizes and designs. Different age groups of kids contributed different aspects of the project, from cutting out the wings to drawing the faces.   The project was overseen and organized by our Counselors in Training, who helped install the artwork at Whole Foods.

The result is a beautiful swarm of friendly bees hanging over the café at the Mass Ave Whole Foods!  Be sure to check them out next time you are in the area!

DSCN0156   10260027_10151941566961324_6786380940976209961_n


“Beatle Mania” comes to Arts Camp

Pop Art Project, "Beatle Mania" week at ACA Arts Camp

Pop Art project for “Beatle Mania” week at ACA Arts Camp

It may be more than 50 years since John, Paul, George and Ringo burst onto the music scene, but the FAB FOUR still inspired lots of happy enthusiasm at ACA’s arts camp last week!

All week long, campers made art inspired by the 1960s, learning a bit about famous artists Andy Worhol, Claes Oldenburg and Jackson Pollack along the way.  In music and drama, we learned a bunch of Beatles songs and put together our own original all-camp musical featuring 5 Beatles songs.

On Wednesday, we had a special guest performance by the Beatles Ensemble from the Winchester Community Music School, led by our music teacher for the week, Tad Hitchcock.

Here’s a video “Yellow Submarine,” with the kids singing along on the chorus, and some great dancing at the end:

And here are a few other highlights and impressions of our week:

Campers created soft sculptures of musical instruments, inspired by the work of sculptor Claes Oldenburg.

Campers created soft sculptures of musical instruments, inspired by the work of sculptor Claes Oldenburg.

Our littlest campers, in the "Young at Art" group, created charming and colorful hand print pop art paintings.

Our littlest campers, in the “Young at Art” group, created charming and colorful hand print pop art paintings.

Counselors in Training created art inspired by music, including this great response to the Beatles' song "Let it Be"

Counselors in Training created art inspired by music, including this great response to the Beatles’ song “Let it Be”

The CITs took a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - what a great group!

The CITs took a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – what a great group!

CITs took their field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - what a nice group!!

It was a timely visit to the MFA – CITs checked out the new “Hippie Chic” exhibit about the 1960s fashion revolution.

Want to see more “Beatle Mania”?

CIT Slideshow – artwork, field trip & more
Arts Camp Slideshow – art, music, drama & more

Video Blog: Recycled & Altered Books

You’ll never believe what you can do with old books!
Diem Dangers will lead you on an amazing journey, transforming old books into stunningly beautiful and meaningful visual journals…

Next offered:
“Recycled Books” with Diem Dangers
Fall, 2012:  4 Tuesdays, 3:00-4:30pm, ages 11-16
You can register online
or call the Arlington Center for the Arts (781) 648-6220

“Wizzards of Their Own Futures” – ACA’s littlest campers get magical at arts camp for pre-schoolers

Cute Alert…!  Art teacher and guest blogger Diem Dangers gives us a peek into the “Young at Art” room during Magic Week at ACA Summer Arts Camp.  Our littlest campers (ages 4-5) had a blast making magic hats, crystal balls, and thinking all about magic!

Diem Dangers (standing) leads the Young at Art pre-K camper in a magical week of art-making and creative fun!

Crystal Ball Project
The purpose of the crystal ball project was to allow the students to think about how to express the future visually. Over

Story Time during Young at Art – firing up the campers’ imaginations with tales of wizards and magic!

the course of the week, we read about magic and wizardry in a variety of storybooks such as: Anton Does Magic, The Magic Raincoat, The Magic Toolbox, Word Wizard, The Magic Babushka, The Dream Jar, Possum Magic, and The Wizard. We also sang “Down By the Castle” (an adaptation of “Down By the Sea” with lyrics that related to the magic theme of this week’s class) with Alex Fenn, our music teacher. We used these stories and songs to inspire conversations about what magic means, what crystal balls are and how they can reveal the future. The students were then asked to create their own crystal ball that would show what would happen in their future.

A magic crystal ball in the making…

It was a fun open-ended exploratory project, giving the little artists plenty of fun textures to play around with and discover including: glitter, felt, construction paper, pipe cleaners, paint, fuzzy woolen balls, crayons, paint, and cut-out photos from magazines for collage. As the week progressed, we also explored adding little pop-out windows to add extra depth and new dimensions to the piece. The students used these little pop-out windows to create entryways to secret passages to the future, and to cover up secret hidden treasures.

I loved how each student produced something totally unique, each interpreting the assignment in their own special way.

Young at Art campers in action, working on their Crystal Ball projects.

Some did landscapes of the future, others did visual stories of their daily lives in the future and their expected careers, others captured futuristic people they would meet. Some did a complex collage of various people, places and objects capturing various different people, times and spaces into one whole. Some kept within the confines of the “crystal ball”, others chose to “think outside the box” allowing their imaginations to wonder all over the page. I was surprised and impressed by such creative, unusual and unexpected arrangements of colors, objects and textures! They certainly have my enthusiastic support for this kind of exploration! After all, the value of creating art comes from what they learn through the exploratory process as much as it does making an end product.

During music time with music teacher Alex Fenn, the kids sang songs about magic, and made some special musical magic of their own, playing with percussion instruments

As an art teacher, I see myself as someone who creates conditions that inspires students to come up with their own ideas for making art that has meaning for them.  I like art projects that stimulate student’s imaginations, encouraging them to think independently for themselves about what they are creating and expressing. For me, children’s art is as valuable in and of itself, and is not to be compared to adult art or considered of lesser developmental quality.


One young camper with his finished Crystal Ball project

At the end of the week, students had the opportunity to share their crystal balls with the rest of the class. I see my students as fellow artists, and take them seriously when they describe their pieces and what they are expressing. I was so impressed by the students’ willingness to explain what their art meant to them, ask questions of others, and engage in conversation with each other. In the process of participating in this activity, they had the opportunity to define what their art meant to them. They were understanding of how different colors, textures and shapes can be used to visually represent the future.

Here is a short video of Emil describing his crystal ball and answering classmates’ questions about it.

Wizard Hats.

Towards the end of the week, we made wizard hats covered in traditional stars and moons and other creative designs. The wizard hats gave the whole Show-and-Tell activity a theatrical feel and added to the magic of the crystal balls. The little artists presented their piece not just as themselves, but as themselves as wizards of their own futures!

Show and Tell time, when each camper presented their crystal ball project, with everyone wearing their magic hats!


More Photos!
See more photos from our week, in our online slideshow.

More info:
for more information about ACA’s Young at Art program, visit our website.

Teen Art Studio: Ragged Mt. Band T-shirt project

Guest blog story by Lindsey Schust, ACA Communications Assistant and Camp Photographer, Summer 2011.

When I walked into the Teen Art Studio Screen’s Printing class, I couldn’t believe my eyes!  The students had designed and printed their own t-shirts and posters.  The designs were so professional and dynamic, that I suddenly had an idea!  Maybe the class could create t-shirts for my new Country Western Band, who had a debut performance in two days’ time.

I spoke with the instructor Pam Shanley (ACA Faculty and Facilities & Operations manager) and asked if I could commission a work for the class.  Pam explained that if I brought in a design the next day, she would present it as a real world  project for the students.

The next day, I visited the Teen Art Studio again, this time with a design cut-out in hand, as well as a bag full of colored t-shirts.  The students immediately got started on the project by carefully applying the vinyl contact paper design to the screen.  Next, they separated the dark shirts from the light ones and selected appropriate ink colors for each.  After creating a paper copy proof  for the design, they were ready to begin printing on the actual t-shirts.  Carefully and with exact precision, the students screen printed all the shirts in less than 30 minutes.  The t-shirts were ready to go!

See a video of the screen-printing process, as the first Ragged Mountain Band T-Shirt is created!

Three days later, I was able to distribute these beautifully screened shirts to my group, “the Ragged Mountain Band” for our debut performance at the Old Time Fair in Andover, New Hampshire on August 7th.  The group was delighted by the shirts and so impressed with the student’s printing.  The concert was a great success and everyone knew our band’s name by the t-shirts.

Marshall was a star screen-printer at ACA this summer!

In a classroom interview several weeks later, Teen Art Studio student Marshall commented on the project: ” It was pretty cool.  After practicing for a whole week, finally we get to do this real project.”   Marshall said that he would absolutely recommend the screen printing course to friends:  “Pam is a really good teacher.  She’s always excited about everything, and she’s really fun.”

Thanks Pam and thanks to the Teen Art Studio students for a wonderful collaboration!

-Lindsey Schust

Special Bonus Video: See the Ragged Mountain Band singing Lindsey’s song “Hippie Hill” at Old Time Day in Andover, NH.

“Island Adventures” Dot Painting Project

During “Island Adventures” week, our campers made some amazing island-inspired artwork, entirely from dots!

“The dot painting project was based loosely on the Haitian folk art flags created with sequins,” explains art teacher Sue Rice.  “We looked at some of the imagery, such as animals, sea creatures, boats and mermaids, and explored how to simplify the images so that they could be represented with through the building up of and layering of dots.”

An example of Haitian flag art - this piece, entitled "La Sireine Labeleine" is by Gabriel Lalanne. A flag 36" x 36" can have as many as 20,000 hand-sewn beads and sequins!

“The emphasis of the project was on color theory (cool and warm, bright and dull, combining opposites) and not on detailed drawings.

“We also looked at two dot-crazy European painters, Seurat and Van Gogh, and examined their paintings with a magnifying glass to see how each would combine a surprising array of colors to make, say, a tree trunk or a hat.

“For the painting project we used a variety of media in a certain sequence– watercolor foundation, then dot markers, cork dots with tempera paints, stick-on dots, and tiny q-tip-painted dots on top. The students could experiment with color and media combinations that produced often surprising results.”

To see more of our “Island Adventures” camp week, check out our online slideshow.

Drama Camp Diary

Ever wonder what it’s like at Drama Camp?  To be thrown together with a bunch of new kids, and put on a play together in just TWO weeks?  And not just any play – but SHAKESPEARE?!!

We asked our campers to keep a “DRAMA DIARY”  – to share their experiences as they prepared to present “A Midsummer’s Night at the Museum,” an original mash-up of some of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, written by ACA drama teacher Jen Davis.

So, without further ado, and in their own words, we present ACA’s Drama Campers…

“I love drama camp!  It’s great, you get to do awesome plays, play super fun improv games, and do creative art projects.  ACA is an awesome camp and it brings out your inner artist, whether it’s musical, dramatic or artistic!”

— Fiona

Having fun with Shakespeare, swords, and pantaloons...!

“This is my 5th year in drama camp and I’m loving it!  I’m Beatrice (girl in the pink dress in the costume ball) and Sir Toby (boy in black leggings and smock thing).  The improv games here are awesome.  My personal favorites are Squirt, Salute the Director, Monster Museum, World’s Worst, and Where’s Charlie?  Oh, and Bus Stop!  I’ve had a lot of fun in the past week and two days and 3 hours, 50 minutes and a whole lot of seconds!  I love the cast party and it tastes really good! (yum).  On, and I have to wear PANTALOONS!!! Really!”

— April

“Drama camp is really cool.  I LOVE improv games, especially Bus Stop and Salute the Director.  Blocking and rehearsals are fun too, because it feels awesome to be performing and know your lines.  I am sooooo excited for the show!  It’s gonna ROCK!!  I also made a new friend and she’s really cool.  Oh, and pantaloons are NOT cool (or comfortable).”

— Maya

playing improv games up on stage...

“We love the game Squirt!  And other fun games.  I love to do the rehearsals.  Sometimes we play the last round of Squirt and 2 people would play and one person would tell a story and Jennifer would stand in front of a fan so we would be practicing our projection!”

— Joji

“Hello from Drama – Drama camp is totally awesome, all the games are really fun like Squirt and Museum Guard.  Blocking and Performing are also great.  I play Kid 2, who has a little sense of what’s happening.  This is going to be really fun!”

— Ben

Playing Taxi...!

“I really like the Drama Camp.  You get to do a bigger play than the other groups in the [regular arts camp].  Everyone always gets a part.  I like all the improv games we get to do.  I like Taxi and Bus Stop best.  I also like the three room game.”

— Olivia

“I had so much fun at drama but my favorite thing to do is rehearse!  I play Ms. Miranda.  My favorite part of playing her is I get soaked at the end! ”

— Anja

“Drama Rocks!  ACA is so much fun with lots of games and meeting new friends.  We played games like Squirt, Bus Stop, Taxi, World’s Worst, Salute the Director, Alien, and Where’s Charlie.  Everybody here is very nice!  My counselors were Alie and Allana, Eliza and Alex.  Drama Camp is awesome!”

— Joji

“ACA is great!  It passed by so quickly!  I can’t believe that it is almost showtime!  It’s going to be great!”

— Evelyn

“I’ve had a great time and I just want to say this Drama Camp is awesome.  I’d certainly like to do it again.”

— Cameron

working together on our costumes for the show...!

“We just finished a great day!  We blocked scenes, played improv games, worked on costumes, and finished art projects – it was a very productive day!”

— Evelyn

“Out of everything in these two weeks of Drama Camp, I would have to say my favorite thing was getting to know my character Scarlet.  I loved finding out what her personality was and then bringing Scarlet to life on stage.  I taught people fun improv games like Where’s Charlie and Alien, both of the games get you ready to act on stage – Alien gets you pumped up, and Where’s Charlie helps your acting skills.  Drama was great at ACA, everybody was nice and supportive.  DRAMA CAMP ROCKS!”

— Evie

“I am honored to be welcomed into the Drama group.  And I like playing games: Bus Stop, World’s Worst, Salute the Director, Echo, Squirt, etc.  I met a bunch of new friends.  Lunch, snack, and recess are awesome.  I play Benedick and the Fairy Chorus.”

— Lucy

“My favorite part of being here is all the games we play and meeting new friends.  I also love Drama Camp because we get to perform a play and have fun.  In the play I’m in the Fairy Chorus.  It’s really fun!”

— Jenny

“I’m very sad I can’t come back next year, but maybe I’ll be a C.I.T. and work with the Drama Camp.  I had lots of fun at Drama Camp.”

— Flava

“I play June in the play.  I like playing improv games.  My favorite part of being June is being the only practical kid. I really liked finding out our parts and seeing the costumes come together.”

— Laura

working on sword-fighting skills...

“ACA Rocks!  2 days until the show.  Sword fighting is awesome!  Main characters are Puck, Parris, Luke, Scarlet and June.  Cast party after!! Awesomeness!!!  I hope the show is awesome – what am I saying?  It will be!  Go Drama Camp!”

— April

“Dear ACA, just in case you want to know, I’m Witch 1 and Sir Andrew.  I loved playing improv games and Squirt was probably my favorite.  All the costumes are really cool!  I liked getting to know my character and getting to know my fellow campers.  Acting like people (or things) that I’m not is really fun and interesting.  Also playing improv games can bring out your inner actor!  From memorizing lines, to playing improv games or just being in your costume, they are all really great!”

— Fiona

“Dear Peeps, I love ACA!!!  It is full of awesome activities!  If you like art, drama, music, and fun stuff, this is the place for you!!”

— Ava

Want to see more from Drama Camp?  Check out our “Midsummer’s Night at the Museum” Slideshow for more photos from the production and all kinds of behind the scenes action!

“Being a CIT is an AMAZING experience….”

Last week, we asked our Counselors-in-Training to share some thoughts about what it’s like to be a CIT at ACA’s Summer Arts Camp.

CITs with a group art project during "Carnival of the Animals" week.

At ages 11-14, CITs are little too old for a “kids” camp, but a little too young for summer jobs.  As CITs at ACA, these young teens try their wings working with younger campers in the classrooms, create amazing collaborative art projects as a group, and take field trips each week to destinations such as the Institute of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Decordova Sculpture Park.

Here’s a little bit of what they said about being a CIT at ACA:

Josie, CIT, age 12

“Being a CIT is an AMAZING experience,” said Josie, age 12. “It is so much fun working with kids of all different ages. It is different working with all of the different age groups too. With the little kids you really have to help them and show them how to do things. With the older kids you can really relate to them and talk about things you have in common. But being a CIT isn’t just hard work. There is also some down time where you can hang out with your new “besties” that you made that week. The teachers are fun and Brian always makes us laugh with his crazy antics and hilarious stories. All in all, I love being a CIT and I can’t wait to come back the other weeks I am here.”

Amber, CIT, age 13

“I really like the field trips we go on,” said Amber, age 13. “The teachers always bring us somewhere fun and we learn about famous artists. It’s always so interesting taking the bus or the train on the way there because you can hang and talk with your friends and sometimes play games on the subway. This week we went to the DeCordova and Brian prepared a scavenger hunt for us. We got some REALLY awesome prizes at the end. After field trips, we all go out for ice cream and just chill. I absolutely love the field trips here and can’t wait for the next one!”

CIT Field Trip & Scavenger Hunt at the Decordova Sculpture Park: See the Slideshow

Rayna, CIT, age 12

“Being a CIT is a big responsibility but an even bigger privilege,” said Rayna, age 12. “You get to work with amazing kids, hang with our teachers Brian and Jennaway, and make friends around your age who like the same kind of things. I know it kinda stinks that you don’t get paid for helping out with “the little ones,”* but the camp makes up for it with all the amazing experiences that you have here. The kids are just so fun to work with; you get to learn with them and teach them and just hang with them. When you are a CIT they sometimes idolize you. It’s great for self-esteem. Brian and Jennaway are hilarious; they can always make you laugh. You make friends here that you would probably never know if you hadn’t gone to this camp. You meet great and very artistic people here, and you won’t regret your time here. Your summer can only get better if you come to the CIT camp. I know it sounds cheesy, but hey, it’s 100% true.”

CITs are artists, too!  See their giant funhouse faceboards from last week’s “Quirky Circus” Camp

* Education Director’s Note: while participating in the CIT program does not guarantee you’ll be hired as a counselor at ACA, you’ll be gaining skills and knowledge that are a great asset in applying for a paid counselor job after the age of 15.  Many of our ACA counselors got their start as CITs.