Middle Schoolers Can LEAP Into Art Education at CAM This Winter

For teens and tweens in middle school, their days can be full of confusion, frustration and struggles with low self-esteem. Art is one way to escape, to let their feelings out and their creativity flow at a time when they usually keep all of their emotions bottled up inside. And once they feel free to discover and unleash their talents, there’s no telling where they can go now or in the future.

To help a teen build his or her art skills, it takes more than encouragement – it takes giving them the opportunity to learn from mentors and introducing them to all forms of creative media.

Through the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) St. Louis LEAP Middle School Intensive program, 12 students each semester receive an eight-week, in-depth exploration of a select contemporary medium, led by a celebrated artist in the field.

Said Tuan Nguyen, Director of Education at CAM, “The goal is create a creative and nurturing environment that focuses on contemporary art medium and practices. And to provide the opportunity to work closely with contemporary artists through a mentorship program that helps students develop their formal artistic skils.”

LEAP fills a gap that is often left empty for junior high students. While many elementary and high school students have the ability to participate in art programs both at school and through arts organizations, in manycases, formal skills-building programs and intensives for middle schoolers are difficult to find. With funding from The Middle Fund, CAM has been able to offer talented students a top-level educational program at no cost to their families.

Putting their mark on the art world

Since launching in 2012, LEAP has offered different series in stop motion animation, social practice art, and sculpture and installation. This February, junior high students can try their hands at printmaking, under the guidance of artist Sophie Lipman. Working with four different styles of printmaking over the eight weeks – relief, intaglio, stencil, and planography – students will explore a variety of themes relevant to their lives, including personal identity, communication and storytelling.

“Printmaking has such a diverse range of practices,” explained Nguyen. “A lot of artists are working with it in many different ways. The LEAP series is a good way to introduce students to the practice and help them discover how they want to create and print.”

At the culmination of the series, students are invited to display their works at a public exhibition that goes on display at CAM beginning in March. For a taste of LEAP, you can still view the fall semester students’ sculpture exhibit, which also veered into performance art and video, now through December 29 at CAM.

The winter 2013 LEAP semester is open to 12 students and begins February 13, 2014. Applications are being accepted now through January 17. There is no cost to participate in this eight-week, after-school series, and all supplies and refreshments are covered as well. To learn more about the program, visit the LEAP page or check out all of CAM’s teen programs on Facebook.

For the students who attend LEAP, it’s not just about learning about contemporary art or strengthening their skills, but building a group of likeminded St. Louis young artists who will continue to move the city’s art community forward in the future. Remarked Nguyen, “I think it’s great that the students come from around the city and county. LEAP helps them learn about each other, share interests and create camaraderie between each other. It’s a good way to collaborate, to teach them how to work together.”

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Metro East mom Nicole Plegge is the lifestyle and pop culture blogger for STL Parent. Besides working as a freelance writer & public relations specialist, and raising two daughters and a husband, Nicole's greatest achievements are finding her misplaced car keys each day and managing to leave the house in a stain-free shirt. Her biggest regret is never being accepted to the Eastland School for Girls. Follow Nicole on Twitter @STLWriterinIL 

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