Children from preschool to high school can draw on their inner creativity this summer at arts camps sponsored by the Aiken Center for the Arts.

Children can explore visual arts through drawing, painting, pottery, anime and other media. Theatre Camp will focus on the performing arts. And an Arts and Music Camp is designed for children and adults with special needs.

“Our art camps will be focused on the process of creating art,” Executive Director Caroline Gwinn said recently during a telephone interview. “It's really about unleashing that inner creativity in all of us this summer.”

• Discovery Art Camp for ages 4-6 will allow children to experience drawing, watercolor, acrylic, pastels and 3-D art in a variety of individual and collaborative projects.

• Art Camp is for ages 7-10 and will allow campers to learn about masterpieces, famous artists and styles of art and create a variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional projects.

• Art Studios are for children ages 11-14 to discover art by exploring their favorite art media. Different camps throughout the summer will focus on printmaking, pottery, comic/anime, painting and three-dimensional anime.

• Night School, for students ages 15 and up, will include T-shirt printing, pottery and urban art.

“Night School is something new for high schoolers,” Gwinn said. “They can come in when all the kids aren't here and have their own space. We're going to allow them on the pottery wheel, and they'll do some urban art where they can do some large-scale works with spray paint, almost like graffiti. They'll also do a T-shirt block printing class. Again, it's all based on building up the inner creativity in all of us.”

• Theatre Camp, for children ages 7-10, will include acting, theatre games, conquering stage fright, developing your character and writing an original play as a group. Students also will walk to the Aiken Community Theatre for a backstage tour and show off their new theatrical skills with a live performance for parents on Friday.

The Arts Center will offer its Art and Music Camp for Special Needs for children ages 5-13 and adults ages 14 to adults on different weeks. The program is for children and adults living with traumatic brain injuries, cerebral palsy and other physical and developmental disabilities.

The camps will be offered throughout the summer from mid-June to mid-August.

Gwinn said the center will follow social distancing guidelines to keep campers safe.

“We have a lot of space,” she said. “We're configuring our tables before we open out doors so the students can have individual workspaces. We have additional sanitizing measures. We're accepting registrations, and we're making plans to have our summer camps with the expectation we will be able to. We hope we can come together to create this summer.”

To register or for more information, call the Art Center at 803-641-9094 or visit aikencenterforthearts.org.

The Center of the Arts will feature an exhibit by artist Marius Valdes, who teaches graphic design and illustration at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, while students are in camps this summer. The exhibit will open June 24.

Valdes will not teach any of the camps, but his works, which are based on a children's book the artist is working on, will give students insights into the process of creating art, Gwinn said, adding the exhibit “would be a wonderful outing for families.”

Valdes called his artwork “very family friendly” during a recent telephone interview.

“I draw with a sort of a refined simplicity that, I think, kids can relate to, but I think also a lot of adults get something out of it,” he said. “I think they thought my artwork and the summer camps would be a really nice mix.”

The exhibit will show Valdes' process in creating a children's book, “Burd Brain,” he is writing and illustrating through a grant from the university. The words and illustrations will tell the story of Burd, a bird who is introverted.

“The work I'm going to show is sort of process work that I've been developing to help me create the kids' book,” Valdes said. “I'm an artist and not a writer, so I think more visually in pictures. Rather than the normal tradition of writing the story and then illustrating it, I create illustrations and then go back and start crafting the writing around that.”

Valdes said the grant will pay for him to distribute the book around the state, and he hopes to be back in Aiken next summer with copies of the finished work.

Concerning the connection between his exhibit and children, Valdes said “kids are the best artists.”

“They are so uninhibited,” he said. “I think that my artwork is approachable, and I hope the one thing my art does for children and adults is make them not afraid to pull out a piece of paper and doodle and draw. I get so much enjoyment out of drawing, and I want other peope to not to be afraid to make mistakes and to create.”

​Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.