First Time’s A Charm


New camp gives students a chance to explore their creative side

Area children channeled their inner artists during the inaugural Westbury Summer ARTS Camp, a five-week program that culminated in a gallery at the Westbury Recreation Center.

This was not your typical cut and paste craft camp; rather, the program found campers, who ranged from 5 to 12 years old, creating sculptures, stop motion animation, up-cycled jewelry and more.

Campers pose with a robot they created out of up-cycled materials.

Westbury Arts was contracted by the village to present the arts-focused camp as part of the summer recreation program, a departure from the typical recreation camps that had faced declining enrollment due to increased competition from similar free programs in the area.

“We proposed a camp that would be focused on the visual arts, with teaching artists and visual artists doing workshops,” said camp director Patty Eljaiek.

The five-week four-day camp offered attendees visual arts from 9 to 11:30 a.m., followed by lunch and then the choice between drama/photography for two days and then music/sculpture the other two days. This was followed by recreation time.

“I liked that we got to meet new people and go outside and play fun games,” said Lily Mancuso, who is pointing to a piece she created during camp. “And we did some art in the morning, like Picasso art and we learned how to do portraits and landscapes. I learned a whole lot of new stuff.”

Bringing an authentic learning experience was important for Eljaiek, a teacher artist herself who came up with the camp’s curriculum.

“I think what was really great was the teaching artists,” she said. “We brought out teaching artists who are artists in the classroom and in their own discipline. We understood that this wouldn’t be a craft camp, there would be a relationship to artists and the art movement.”

Among those teaching artists was Geeta “Citygirl” Chopra, an actress, who directed the drama portion of the camp. For her, the past few weeks were more than just about giving kids something to do while their parents were at work.

“The most impactful thing for me as a teacher was listening to some very hard stories that kids felt comfortable to share here. As a drama teacher, we’re telling stories. My style of coaching is very much about our emotions and how to use them and not stifle them,” she said, going on to say that she hoped kids walked away from the camp not only better artists, but better people. “We’re giving kids tools as actors. You can study all the techniques you want but what you really need are the tools to be a good human being that observes the human condition.”

“I loved drama and sculpture and all the fun activites we did and all the art things,” said Luna Moram, next to a portrait she drew. “They taught us we can make a very nice design out of lines and 3D shapes and that we can paint with tissue paper.”

Students could sign up for anywhere from two to five weeks, and Eljaiek noted she was “pleasantly surprised” at the turnout, which averaged around 20-24 students a week. And at the end, students didn’t just take their projects home to be hung on the refrigerator; rather, their paintings, drawings, photography and sculptures were put on display at a gallery exhibit and closing event held at the Westbury Recreation Center.

“Along with having an arts-centered curriculum, we wanted to give them a feeling on what it is like to curate an exhibit,” said Eljaiek. “Most of the time, kids make artwork, take it home and that’s the end of it. Now they get to see how a museum curator would display it and that we value what they do.”


  1. Thank you Betsy for a wonderful spotlight on an amazing summer experience. It was 6 weeks of learning, sharing and working together which we hope to build on for Summer 2019. Thanks to our fantastic teaching artists – Erin Tornatore, Marie Saint-Cyr, Geeta Chopra and Briana Bradley for creating a space where every child’s creativity was valued. Thanks to the amazing Rec Center staff and all of our parents who supported their children and us during our first year, we hope to see you back next summer !

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