This summer, 5-12 year olds can immerse themselves in the culture and history of the island while engaging in their passion for the arts and the environment. Key West Art & Historical Society’s ArtCamp! begins June 8 and extends over the summer until August 14 with a roster of weekly sessions that celebrate Key West’s rich artistic history and natural landscape.

The camp, in operation for over thirty years and one of the oldest children’s summer camps in the Keys, marks the organization’s commitment to the many youth programming and educational initiatives it has on its horizon that aim to “inspire a greater sense of place and historical understanding,” says KWAHS Executive Director Michael Gieda.

“As a museum, we are dedicated to education, especially children’s education,” he says. “You never know how these types of programs will inspire the next generation.”

This year’s camp will be implemented by Key West Art & Historical Society’s new Education Specialist Adele Williams in partnership with The Studios of Key West.

“Each and every class is styled around the arts and history of Key West.,” says Williams.

“But it’s not just an art camp. While art is a huge component of what we’re offering, we really wanted to branch out from conventional art camp to include science, music and movement.”

The weekly sessions run the creative gamut to touch upon a variety of art, culture and the humanities to get children thinking, moving and making: Exploring Key West’s Sweet Sounds; Let’s Explore Pinhole Photography; Journey through the Mediums: Batik Prints and Mixed Media; Environmental Education Through Art; From Cuba to Cayo Hueso; Islands of Song: The Bahamas; The Kid Stays in the Picture: Key West’s Wild Picture Show; Key West Flora and Fauna Through an Artist’s Eyes; and Music and Dance from the Isle of Key West.

Campers will also have the experience of exploring Fort East Martello (South Roosevelt Boulevard), an enclosed Civil War-era fort stewarded by Key West Art & Historical Society and the location for the weekly camp sessions. Each week will have auxiliary activities and excursions pertaining to the specific sessions, including field trips to local museums, nearby beaches and gardens–all highlighting the abundant history and cultural assets of our islands while encouraging and expanding students in their knowledge of their local community.

“Keeping their brains engaged throughout the summer is key to preventing so much loss of information from what they’ve learned in the school year,” says Williams, who is finishing up her own semester at Key West Montessori Charter School before fully stepping into her role as KWAHS Education Specialist.

But she also recognizes that it IS summer vacation, and kids sometimes just want to play.

“While there will be a planned art, history and science curriculum, there will also be room for natural, open-ended play– with big, outdoor play stations, water play, a dress-up area, and new building blocks from Imagination Playground,” says Williams. “These things will be especially important for the younger campers, who might need a break from what the older students are working on inside.”

Williams is confident that she and her staff -an instructor and assistant for 15 children each week– are equipped to make the camp safe, engaging and educational for all. Most of the counselors are teachers themselves who “understand the specific needs of children,” she says, and have extensive backgrounds in art and culture.

The instructors will draw on local artists and historical figures in their programming–Ernest Hemingway, Mario Sanchez, Stanley Papio, Suzie dePoo, Fats Navarro– these artists and others will serve as inspiration to the campers as they explore art-making of their own.

“We’re really putting Key West under a magnifying glass. We’re looking at the art, the culture, the environment, the collection of museums throughout the island and the islands that surround our islands,” says Williams.

With the Society winning the Knight Foundation’s People’s Choice Award last Fall, they are committed to focusing their energies on growing their educational programs, specifically for the local community.

“As we welcome Adele to our wonderful team, the community can expect to see a lot more family and child-oriented programming,” says Gieda. “As the stewards of three of the most historic properties here on the island, it is our duty to make them accessible to the community. You can expect to see a lot more programming and lot more fun.”

ArtCamp! runs from 9:00AM to 4:00PM, Monday – Friday, is $185 a week for members and $200 a week for non members and offers an early morning drop-off at 7:45 for an extra $25 a week. Included are all supplies, light snacks and weekly Friday pizza parties. Families who want to register for more than one session may reserve their spot with a 50% down payment.

Detailed description of the various sessions and registration information can be found at KWAHS.ORG/LEARN or by calling 305-295-6616, extension 102.

Your museums. Your community. It takes an island.