Student creatives hone their craft with Fine Arts Summer Intensives

HISD’s Fine Arts Department believes that artistic learning shouldn’t stop just because the school year ends. Beginning in early June, schools around the district host multiple Fine Arts Summer Intensives for all grade levels to keep student visual artists, dancers, thespians, and musicians creating all summer long.

This year, the elementary and middle school visual arts intensive was held at Lawson Middle School where students spent four weeks under the instruction of HISD art teachers who taught them to work in different mediums including clay, papier-mâché, paint, and even tie-dye.

Rising eighth-grader Asyria Dawkins, already an artist in her own right, signed up for the Visual Arts intensive to keep herself from feeling stuck and bored at home over the summer, but discovered that the program was much more than the average summer arts camp. “You connect with people from different backgrounds,” Dawkins said, noting that all of the students in her class were from different schools throughout HISD.

“The Fine Arts Intensives really build on the skills [students] are taught during the year and/or expose students who haven’t had the opportunity to experience the arts at their campuses,” said Wenden Sanders, HISD’s Director of Fine Arts. “We expose them to engagement with things that challenge their mind but are still fun to do. The kids get to have fun and meet kids from all across the district, kids outside of their attendance boundaries. They see that these kids are just like them, even if their schools are culturally different, they get to blend their cultures together.”

The Fine Arts Summer Intensive curriculum is developed by condensing the types of projects that art students might work on during the school year into a bite-size, four-week program. Much of the content is dependent on the expertise of the teachers available to teach the summer intensive and on the skill levels of the students.

“When I do art at home, I struggle sometimes, but when I joined [the summer intensive], they showed us tools to use and how to have patience,” said rising ninth-grader Christian Early. “You can express yourself through a drawing.”

The Fine Art Summer Intensive culminated in an art show and awards ceremony on the last day of the program, Thursday, June 29. Students’ families came in droves to see the product of their four weeks of learning and creativity, the summer’s artwork lining the main entry hall of Lawson in a colorful, eye-catching display.

The art show, entitled “Pieces of Me,” is described in the students’ collective mission statement: “Our artwork takes a dive into our sense of self, tradition, and culture. Referencing our homes, appearances, cuisine and interests, our work explores the relationships and curiosities between our community and identity.”

The students’ work took inspiration from legendary Mexican painter Frida Kahlo as well as the art and creative expression in their everyday lives.

To parents who might be on the fence about signing their students up for the Fine Arts Summer Intensive next year, Sanders said, “These four weeks of intense training will benefit your kid for life. Kids build camaraderie across Houston, and it keeps them engaged throughout the summer. They get free breakfast, free lunch, and an art intensive where they can have fun and express themselves.”

The high school Visual Arts Summer Intensive consisted of drawing and painting as well as printmaking, sculpture, ceramics and photography—mediums that not all students have access to districtwide during the school year. The high school program was hosted this year by Madison High School. Other Summer Intensives include Acting, Technical Theatre, Dance, Piano, and Guitar and were hosted Pershing Middle School, Meyerland Middle School, Sharpstown High School, and Bellaire High School.

To learn more about HISD’s Fine Arts Department and future Summer Intensives students, visit their website.