When a person thinks “Paint & Sip Studio” they may not automatically think “kids!”, but in our case they totally should! While no, we don’t serve them alcohol (obviously) kids love our studio! Since opening in 2015 we have been a go-to place for fun and easy birthday parties (look for a future blog post on how great those are) and kids have always been welcome at any event, but in 2021 we decided to fully embrace the kid “space”, and work to meet the need in Chittenden County for fun, creative summer camp opportunities. The concept of our “Paint & Create Kids Camp” was born!
Once we decided on a fun name (always important) and designed a logo, we had to conceptualize what the program would look like. What ages would we serve? What projects would we do? Why would a parent choose to send their child to us versus another camp (or perhaps no camp at all)? Lastly, what are some of the barriers that may keep kids or parents from being interested in our opportunity. Whoosh, it was a lot to think about!
Initially we decided to focus on ages 9 and up, but quickly saw a strong push for younger kids, as spaces for camps are more limited for them. While it made us nervous to potentially have ages ranging from 6 to maybe as old as 13/14 in the same camp, we learned that it actually worked out very well! Art/creativity is a universal language and all ages can engage. We also found that kids struck a natural balance of “hanging with their age” and supporting/helping younger kids. A happy accident (as Bob Ross would say)?
The debate of half-day versus whole-day was also real in determining the structure of camp. To mix the two options throughout the summer made staffing challenging, and knowing that a main reason kids need good camp options is because their caretakers work, we decided to go with a 8:30- 3 pm format, offering aftercare until 5 for an additional fee. While I expected aftercare to be totally full, we were (and still are) surprised at how few families took advantage of it. No doubt we are still learning how this works and may in the future offer aftercare only certain weeks, etc.
In figuring out curriculum, we talked to a lot of parents. What did they want to see from a camp? What did their kids enjoy, and what should we consider? One resounding theme; physical activity! Now, you may be thinking “art and physically activity?” Well, you are not wrong in thinking that creating art is not exactly the most physically demanding (sans large murals/sculptures/etc. of which we really are not diving into for camp). Fortunately we are lucky enough to be located right in downtown Burlington, where beautiful spaces and inspiration abound! We decided to build into the daily curriculum time outside, seeking inspiration, creating art in various ways, playing physical games and just frolicking! This time outdoors was a favorite for campers, and was balanced out by time in our studio for more focused work.
We decided that each camper would get a branded t-shirt with their tuition, and we brought back the tie-dye from the 60s/70s (and well, the 90s, etc.). We also provide each camper with a sketchbook to capture work throughout the week and be a go-to for inspiration and creativity long after the week is over. While we certainly include a number of painting projects, we also explore other forms of art and creation, and are constantly striving to add new ideas and techniques!
One major pause we had regarding logistics for camp was the dreaded “parking” of downtown Burlington. Now, while I think we can safely assume our campers won’t be driving themselves there, we can also assume the idea of finding parking twice a day to drop-off and pick-up your child is a major drawback. This was the birth of the “easy curbside drop-off and pick-up”! Staff meet kids outside as they get out of their cars, and wait outside for parents to drive up. No parking, no getting out of your car, just easy-peasy!
So with those thoughts/plans in mind we launched in Summer of 2022 with resounding success! Kids loved it, many came back for second weeks, and parents had nothing but great things to say! We even had some wonderful quotes from parents talking about how our camp helped their child realize they were an artist, and how to bring creativity into all parts of their life! Overall, we had no negative feedback, but we did gain an understanding of the need for scholarships to help pay for camps where families cannot afford the full cost.
So this year we decided to put more focus onto the cost and funding of our camp. We are a for-profit business, which means we don’t qualify for supplemental funds that many camps who fall under non-profit status do, and unfortunately we cannot afford to put camp on without it making money. Another piece to consider is that while all camps (I think at least) have staffing costs (which is probably the greatest cost), our camp also is very “rich” in art materials and supplies. Guess what? Those are really expensive, and even more so in the past few years. We cannot put on our camp at the same rate as a lot of other places, even though we can make it just as fantastic an experience (and hopefully unique)! So we took a couple of different approaches. First, we offer parents sending their kids to our camp the opportunity to contribute to our scholarship fund, and have been pleasantly surprised at the response. We also created a fun, take-home product that we sell in our studio where all proceeds go towards scholarships… feel free to contact us to check those out! We put an application for scholarships on our website and will be actively matching kids with camp weeks where we can supplement the cost.
So here we are, looking Spring 2023 in the face and actively enrolling campers for our summer program. If you, or anyone you know is looking for a fun camp that will empower your child to embrace creativity, send them our way!