Michelangelo and Picasso did it; now your kids can too

Gina Fairley

School holiday camp has been reimagined for budding artists, offering learning in an art school environment with NAS’s new Future Makers program.
Michelangelo and Picasso did it; now your kids can too

Future Makers at the National Art School. Photo: Peter Morgan

Michelangelo started making art when he was just 13, apprenticed to Florence’s master fresco painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. Picasso was a mere seven when he stared taking drawing lessons; by the age of nine he'd finished his first painting, and at 13 he was studying at Barcelona's School of Fine Arts.

Now young Australians have the opportunity to hone their talents in a professional environment.

Future Makers is a school holiday program delivered by the National Art School in Sydney’s Darlinghurst, and caters to the age groups 10-12 and 12-14. The next Future Makers program will run in April.

The program aims to give young people with an interest in art an opportunity that few schools can offer.

‘We have based the program on the reputation of the National Art School (NAS) which is fundamentally a studio-based teaching discipline. It is about taking that reputation and adapting it to a younger audience,’ said Alana Ambados, NAS Education Outreach Officer.

‘We have taken into account that some primary students don’t have dedicated arts teachers. This program gives kids technical skills to support their development as they go into high school,’ she said.

Tatiana Paipetis’ daughter was ‘always making something’ so Paipetis enrolled her in the inaugural Future Makers this January. Paipetis said the workshop program helped channel her daughter’s creativity.

She was thrilled to be able to do things she hadn’t been exposed to at school, like using a pottery wheel and learning perspective drawing and all about vanishing points. These are things you expect kids can’t do. They are taught at a really high level in these workshops,’ she said.

Coordinator of NAS’s Education Outreach, Lorraine Kypiotis, said there is a real need to provide a platform to nurture the creativity of kids, especially when education system is so focused on quantitative results and curriculum outcomes.

‘While we have run a lot of senior high school programs, this is the first of its kind at that junior level,’ said Kypiotis. ‘What we really want to do in the Outreach Department is create a clear path from primary to high school to a BFA, to show there is a future in visual arts as a career path.’

Future Makers at the National Art School. Photo: Peter Morgan

An art camp that’s the real thing

Like most parents, Paipetis relies on holiday workshops but found her children had grown tired of the usual options.  She was delighted to find a high-level art program that met their interests.

‘For working parents an all-day course is invaluable – to know they are safe and doing something they are enjoying, plus it is a decent length of time so they get to create something meaningful.’ 

The program is designed for maximum flexibility so that parents can mix and match classes to suit their child’s interest.

‘If you book your child in for an individual day they will have a resolved work of art at the end of that day. But we have also suggested programs for multiple days to a whole week, where the kids get a taster across different disciplines, and are exposed to mediums they perhaps have not worked with before,’ said Ambados.

‘For example, some schools don’t have dark rooms. We want these kids to understand what photography was before iPhones. It is important to see those ideas merge through making, and for them to make sense of our world today,’ she added.

Class sizes are kept to twelve students per class, and all classes are taught by practicing artists who have taught for a number of years, or artists with Masters Degree backgrounds.

Many craft-based activities dumb-down expectations for children but the NAS program raises the bar.

‘They get them to think and work experimentally, and when you see the product that they are able to create in that environment – when you give them access to proper tools and experienced artists – it is so encouraging,’ said Ambados.

Paipetis witnessed it in her own daughter. ‘The level of teaching and learning was way above my expectations. While it was a little more expensive relative to some other holiday courses it was definitely value for money. Finding something that really tapped into who my daughter is was invaluable. It is not childcare!’

Future Makers at the National Art School. Photo: Peter Morgan

Future Makers instilling confidence

Parents have witnessed a boost in their childrens’ confidence on completing the program.

‘When the day’s done in the studio and those kids walk down the campus they look like pack horses with all their materials, big smiles and rushing up to parents with endless talk and infectious energy. They want to go back in and do more,’ said Ambados.

Being on a real art school campus and meeting real-life working artists is akin to meeting the super heroes of a comic book’s pages for these kids. There is a kind of magic about NAS’s environment, that when tapped into early, can leave an impression that lasts a lifetime.

‘The art school was a real haven, and she really felt that being there,’ said Paipetis.

Kypiotis added: ‘This program reflects the pride of the National Art School to want to support a younger generation of artists coming through, and give value to that – it is absolutely key.’

How to sign up

The next Future Makers Program will be held 18-21 April, 3-7 July and 3-6 October. Courses available include ceramics, drawing, photomedia, printmaking and painting.

Enrolments are open for children aged between 10-14 years of age.

Visit Future Makers at National Art School.

About the author

Gina Fairley covers the Visual Arts nationally for ArtsHub. Based in Sydney you can follow her on Twitter @ginafairley and Instagram at fairleygina.