The mission of Young at Art is to foster self-esteem and confidence in every child that takes our classes by helping them express their innate and unique creativity. We do this by creating a safe, nurturing space and offering encouragement and positive feedback. We provide children with a wide variety of materials, a large open space, and friendly, caring guidance.
We believe that all children have something unique to express, and that self expression is core to developing a strong sense of self esteem. Our role is to motivate, support, and encourage children in making art their own way. We work on projects that excite children’s imaginations and offer a wide variety of materials to help them create what they envision. If a child comes to us with an idea that they want to execute, we help them make it happen.
All of our teachers have a degree in fine art or education. They all have many years experience working with children. We keep class enrollment low, so that teachers can give individual attention to each student. Our student-teacher ratio is never more than 6:1.
In all of our classes, even with the littlest of artists, we teach the fundamentals of fine art. This starts with learning colors, shapes, and lines. As children get older, we teach them all aspects of making art and expose them to a wide variety of art supplies and techniques, being careful to limit their exposure to toxic materials. When children are young, we give them limited instruction and emphasis the goal of having them follow their own muse and self expression. As they enter the older grades instruction increases. By middle school, we are helping them improve their skills in making art that looks three-dimensional and reflects life. However, throughout our instruction we encourage children to use their imagination and make art that appeals to them. We repeat over and over that their art should be unique to them and that taking our suggestions or advice is completely optional.
Art making is a messy job. We allow children the time and space to get messy and explore the materials. We encourage them to let go and experience the process of making art. Children sometimes leave our classes covered in paint, glue, and glitter. We encourage students to dress for mess. They can do things at Young at Art that they could never do at home or school.
Methodology for Younger Classes
Children are immersed in a multi-sensory experience that appeals to all interests and abilities. This experience includes art processes such as painting, collage, 3-dimensional construction, creative movement, and storytelling. For example, young children experience roundness as they paint on a circle, mold a piece of clay into a ball, make themselves round, and dance in a circle. We emphasize exploration and discovery, rather than a finished product. Children explore color, line, shape, size, texture, and 3-dimensionality, and learn to mix paint colors, cut, string shapes, sew, wrap, and draw.
Every class has carefully prepared lesson plans. There is a goal for each class that relates to the concept explored. Materials are set up on a “store,” a long piece of brown paper, where a variety of interesting materials are reachable. Easily accessible materials lead to free-flowing ideas. Projects at YAA can last several weeks, allowing the children time to add details as they get fully immersed in the artistic process. We work on the floor, which allows children to move freely and use their imagination. No idea is too small or too large.
Each class includes a snack break during which the younger students hear a story related to the art lesson of the day and the older children learn about well-known artists and subject matter pertinent to what they are working on. This reinforces the art concepts and stimulates ideas.
Classes for Older Students
For many years, Young at Art focused on classes for younger children. Once they got to middle school, there were no more classes for them to take. In 2015, we began offering classes for children in grades 5-8. We added a Mixed Media 3D Art class, Painting & Sketching, and Anime and Manga. These classes are largely instructional and intended to improve students skills in a particular area, while also exposing them to new concepts and materials. We also now offer private lessons and help older students build a portfolio for college admissions. Soon we will have classes in Sculpture, Fashion Design, Portraiture & Figure Drawing, and Graffiti/Street Art. We hope to include classes for adults and children in grades 9-12 as we expand and add more classrooms.
In 1980, Donna Weiner and Marsha Mendel, mothers of young children living in Westchester, founded Young at Art to bring a quality art experience to children in Westchester. They based YAA on a unique art program in NYC at the 92nd St Y to which they had been commuting with their own children. The two mothers enrolled themselves in a teacher-training workshop led by the creator of the Y program and soon after began offering classes for 3-year-olds. When that first session ended parents asked for 4-year-old classes. From this modest beginning, YAA has moved twice to expand its studio space and has offered up to 17 classes a week with 12 teachers for children aged 1 to 18. In 2015, Donna retired from Young at Art (Marsha had retired years before) and Jen Kaplan became the new owner. Jen keeps in close contact with both Donna and Marsha, and they offer their guidance and input on the organization.