Krasl shorts offer artistic experience for children

Published 10:17 am Thursday, December 26, 2013

Krasl shorts offer a variety of artistic activities, from throwing pottery to beading to watercolor painting. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Krasl shorts offer a variety of artistic activities, from throwing pottery to beading to watercolor painting. Leader photo/JILL McCAUGHAN

Along with physical education and music classes, art programs often take the brunt of budget cuts when school systems are faced with tough economic times. That may leave parents wondering how they can supplement their children’s artistic experiences.

With a mission of “bringing people and art together,” the Krasl Art Center at 707 Lake Blvd. in St. Joseph, Mich. is one place where parents can find a variety of options for adding a greater emphasis on the arts to their children’s lives.

“For a small community — a resort town — we really have a well-established arts center here, with the Curious Kids Museum, the Benton Harbor Arts District and the Krasl Arts Center all so close together,” said Keith Stevens, elementary program coordinator at the Krasl.

Stevens is responsible for developing a considerable portion of the Krasl’s youth arts programming. Along with colleagues Sherri Baun and Nathan Margoni, and under the direction of Tami Miller, Stevens’ goal is to provide a comprehensive creative arts education program that will appeal to many segments of the community.

One way that parents can inject some creativity into their children’s lives is to sign them up for a class in the Krasl’s “Winter Shorts” program. “Shorts” are one-day “make-and-take” sessions that the Krasl offers during scheduled school vacations. Lasting two hours each, the classes cost $20 for members and $25 for non-members. Walk-ins are welcome, but classes do fill up, so pre-registration is recommended.

Upcoming shorts include “New Year’s Celebration Decorations” and “Chinese New Year Dragons.” Meeting from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Dec. 30th and Jan. 3rd respectively, the classes offer creative opportunities to groups of children ranging in age from 5 to 7 and from 8 to 10 years old.

“In ‘New Year’s Celebration Decorations,’ we will be making both noise makers — shakers— and a hanging confetti drop with recyclable materials. It’ll be something you fill with different materials and hang upside down, and you’ll be able to pull a cord, and the bottom will drop out,” Stevens said. “We’ll just be having a great time ringing in the new year!”

“For our ‘Chinese New Year Dragons,’ the younger kids are going to make dragons out of folded paper with a head and with popsicle sticks for the legs. Then, they can decorate them with glitter, feathers, beads and all sorts of things. It will be about 12 inches long when it is fully extended,” Stevens said.

“The older kids will be making their dragons using those styrofoam hamburger containers for the heads. They’ll also have glitter and beads and use ping pong balls for the eyes,” Stevens said. “They’ll be making larger puppets . We’re using the concept of the Chinese dragon, but they’ll be creating ones that one person can operate while still getting the motion of the Chinese dragon.”

“I want kids to see that you can use all different types of material. You can take everyday things from around the house and create with them,” Stevens explained.

Another session of shorts is planned for Spring Break, running from Mar. 31st through April 3rd. Programs include “Playing With Art” for ages 5 to 7, “Mixed Media Drawing” for ages 8 to 10 and “Having Fun With Painting” for ages 10 to 13. More information about those classes can be obtained by calling (269) 983-0271 or by visiting

Parents who want their children to participate in a more lengthy and focused art course may be interested in the Youth Studio Art Classes that will begin the week of Feb. 4th. Most of these classes meet once a week for an hour-and-a-half and last for six to 12 weeks. Details can be found on the Krasl’s website.

Kindergarteners through 3rd-graders will have the opportunity to participate in “Caldecott Connection Creations,” a class that links award-winning children’s books to the students’ own creative endeavors.

For 4th- through 6th-graders, the Krasl has planned a class called “Beads and Beyond.” Students will learn about the history of jewelry-making while they create their own pieces of handcrafted jewelry.

“Mural Painting at the Beginning” will teach the history and techniques of mural painting to 5th- through 8th-graders. These students will have the opportunity to create large works of art on a variety of surfaces.

Finally, the Krasl is offering two options for 8th- through 12th-graders. There will be “Drawing Without a Pencil,” which will incorporate a variety of media and methods for drawing. And, “Hipsters in the Dark Room, Moving On” will provide students with the increasingly rare opportunity to develop their photographic skills using film cameras and dark room equipment.

Even if parents can’t find the time to enroll the children in a formal class, touring the Krasl is an opportunity to expose their children to the arts for free, as admission has no cost. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays, and 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays. In addition, the museum remains open until 9 p.m. on Thursdays.

The current exhibition, featuring the art of Marshall M. Fredericks, will run through Jan. 12. As Stevens noted, the museum will then be closing for a few weeks to make ready for the next exhibition and the new session of classes. So, Christmas break may be a good time to visit the Krasl with the kids.