Art smart!

When Lara Olson realized the limited amount of art education her son was getting in school, she felt she had to do something about it. 

So the Minnesota mother started looking for art classes, hoping to find a studio designed just for kids that offered quality art education in a fun environment.

But she couldn’t find anything that featured quite the mix she wanted. 

And that’s when Olson’s idea for Kidcreate was born.

Now, more than 10 years later, Kidcreate Studio is a national art-education franchise for children with three locations in Minnesota — Eden Prairie, Savage and Woodbury — plus studios up and running, or in the works, in nine other states.

Specializing in children’s art classes, camps and parties, Kidcreate Studio caters to kids up to 12 years old. 

Karen Hansen, Kidcreate’s training director, has been with the company since the beginning, 12 years ago. For her, the decision to move from teaching preschool to Kidcreate wasn’t hard after learning the mission of the company. 

“The concept behind it is just so inspiring,” Hansen said, adding that she feels like schools simply aren’t doing enough art education. “Being able to still provide that for kids — and going out to different locations to offer that option — touched my heart.”

Making a day of it

Throughout the summer, Kidcreate holds dozens of different camps with themes that cater to kids’ interests, such as Paw Patrol, Sing With Me and Art Zoo for ages 3–6, and Fortnite Fanatic, 3D Pop-Out and Choc-a-licious for ages 5–12. I Heart Sparkles and Mega Mess Making are ideal for ages 4–9. 

“We take pride in our curriculum,” Hansen said of the studios’ unique programming that takes inspiration from things that are the most popular with kids during any given summer.

Most summer camps last three hours, but families can mix and match morning and afternoon sessions and — by adding a Lunch and Doodle session to bridge the gap — create a full day of activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

A typical Kidcreate camp starts with some free doodle time before the campers come together as a class to learn about the “Kidbit,” the main educational focus of the day. 

Then campers make their first art project based on the camp’s theme. 

Ta-Dah! time

Next comes what Hansen says is one of the kids’ favorite parts of camp — “messy time.”

“[Campers] love messy time so much because they’re not ever truly allowed to spread out and do those kinds of things at home, like putting shaving cream or slime on the table — and it can get all over the place,” Hansen said. 

One camper, named Violet, concurred: “My favorite part is that I get to make art — and I like messy time a lot. Yesterday we painted the whole table.”

After a snack and another group time, campers get to make their second project of the camp, concluding with “Ta-Dah” time to show parents what they worked on that day — what Kidcreate likes to call “fridge-worthy” masterpieces. 

An art mindset

But the Kidcreate curriculum isn’t just about creating those big-reveal moments. It’s also about helping kids discover a different kind of thinking.  

“Art allows kids to be open-minded and creative, and that applies to so many different areas of life,” said Kendra Kallevig, an assistant manager at the Eden Prairie location. “It’s not just, ‘Can I draw a horse?’, but, ‘Am I willing to try new things and attempt to splatter paint and get messy while doing it?’”

Additionally, campers use math and science techniques to create their art, along with other skills that address school and life challenges. 

While all the camps at Kidcreate are built for all skill levels, Hansen said kids can sometimes be hard on themselves if they feel they can’t do something — or if they don’t think they can make a certain project. 

Campers, however, are always encouraged to do their best, no matter how their art turns out. 

“It can be intimidating for them to see what they have to make,” Hansen said. “But then they realize that we’re there to teach them — and help them along every step of the way.” 

Staying focused

Kidcreate’s structured environment helps keep campers centered so teachers can stay on track with lesson plans while also assisting campers. 

Younger kids get an opportunity to learn how to follow the rules and stay on schedule, while having fun at the same time. 

“It’s all about those elements of what they are learning in the classroom,” Hansen said, “and they don’t even realize they’re learning it.” 

For Kallevig, the best part of the program is being able to watch the progress of the campers, especially those who become regulars and build their confidence as artists and learn social skills, too. 

“It really helps prepare them for school,” she said. “It’s really cool to see the Kidcreate culture as kids come back and you see them again.”

Abby Doeden is a journalism student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a local freelance writer.