Building self-esteem in our students is the primary mission of Young at Art. We help children get in touch with and express their innate and unique creativity. We create a safe, nurturing environment. We offer friendly, caring guidance and positive feedback. We teach them to respect each other and themselves. And, finally, we provide children with a wide variety of materials and a large open space to excite their artistic side.
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 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.
Our teachers are specifically chosen for their commitment to our mission. We hire professionals with many years of experience who are truly committed to helping children develop a positive sense of self-esteem. We train teachers and guide them in creating the best experience for each child. The teachers at Young at Art work here because of their love for children and their desire to guide them and help them grow. Your child’s Young at Art teacher takes the time to listen to your child, get to know them, and give them individual attention. Our teachers work side-by-side with your child to help them get in touch with their innate creativity, to improve artistic skills, to build a positive community in the classroom, and to deal with the frustrations and joys of making something look just as they want it too. Classes are kept small with a limit of 12 children in our younger classes. Our student-teacher ratio is 6:1 or better.
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Methodology for Younger Classes
In all of our classes, even with the littlest of artists, we teach the elements of fine art. This starts with learning colors, shapes, and lines. 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. 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. We hope to include classes for adults and children in grades 9-12 as we expand and add more classrooms.
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.
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.