The parents of the 18 kids participating in this week’s holiday day camp at the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts in Gloversville are in for quite the New Year’s Eve celebration. That’s because the campers, ages 5-12, are gearing up for the countdown to 2022 by making their own pinatas, crafting a macaroni and cheese bar with toppings of their choice, and even making a charcuterie board to bring home.
Those festive creations by elementary school kids could amaze some parents. Then again, some parents are quite impressed by the arts center itself, according to the center’s director. Meanwhile, the holiday camp and other offerings at the center can be eye-opening experiences for children and members of the community alike.
“Many parents when they walk in the front door for the first time with their kids, they are just amazed,” said Terry Swierzowski, director at the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts. “This introduces them to the whole litany of things that we do here.”
Indeed, the four-day camp is just the beginning of what goes on at the arts center. Founded in 2015 by the Arc Lexington, an accredited provider of disability services in New York state, the Paul Nigra Center for Creative Arts is a truly inclusive environment open to everyone. In addition to camps — which have themes ranging from acting to outdoor adventure — the facility is a year-round community arts center offering everything from music and culinary classes to concerts, galas and networking retreats. It also has gallery space, and the 2021 Fall/Winter Art Show, on until Jan. 14, showcases more than 38 artists and 104 works of everything from landscapes to portraits by New York, California and Oregon artists. A quilt show begins Jan. 22.
The children at the holiday week camp will have learning opportunities ranging from Monet and Pollock to cooking lessons, said Camp Director Lynette May. The goal is to celebrate learning and creativity through arts of all kinds as well as STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) for a safe, fun, enlightening and educational experience. The cost was $200 for the four days, with discounts available to members.
For youngsters like 8-year-old Lake Harding of Mayfield, the camp is simply a great chance to play with her friends. She is especially looking forward to the sledding scheduled for later in the week.
“It gets most of our energy out,” Harding said. “They have an outside area, so we can run around and build stuff with sticks.”
Staff members say their center can build more than stuff with sticks — it can help build a strong community.
Part of the experience at the arts center is the involvement of the Transitions students, which is a program that focuses on developing academic skills, life skills and general independence for high school graduates and young adults with autism and learning differences. Transitions is part of the Nigra arts center campus. While the Transitions students are on break during this week’s holiday camp, other events throughout the year give neurotypical kids and differently abled students the chance to interact. For instance, Transitions students often serve as camp counselors during other camps, May said.
“It gives the kiddos exposure to people with differing abilities,” May said. “I think if you can start at this young age and have them exposed to people from all walks of life, it helps us raise a better community.”
The arts center staff members hope programs like the holiday camp help increase the center’s exposure.
“So many people think that we don’t have resources here in Fulton County, and we truly do,” May said. “I think a lot of people don’t know we’re here. So it’s super important for our local community to know that we have this here.”
Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected]t and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.
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