House of art

Sometimes art is all about the hype.

Seven-year-old Cameron seemed to agree as he half-jokingly said, “I’m so scared, I’m so scared,” as he prepared to roll up a flat slab of clay to complete the main structure of his fairy house. 

After the two edges made contact, he beamed a relieved, triumphant smile. 

“I did it!” he exclaimed. 

His 4-inch-tall fairy house stood up, featuring a low window with open shutters and a front door, left open to welcome any magical visitors who might wander by, of course. All he needed to do next was make the roof. 

It was all part last summer’s Ceramics & Sculpture Camp at the Eagan Art House, where kids kept busy making turtles with artfully coiled shells, pinch pots, cupcake sculptures and much more. 

Each project — chosen to teach at least one art principle, technique or element of art history — gave the kids creative freedom to make their projects their own. 

Think rows of fairy houses with each one looking a little different or pages of pastel flowers, offering enough biodiversity to please a botanist.

Art for all

While some children get pegged in school as the “artsy” ones right away, camp instructor Amy Rhone was quick to remind her students that it’s OK to do art a little differently than everyone else.

She encouraged students to find their own creative paths. 

“Everyone has a talent in art,” Rhone said. “Art is a stepping stone for being in school, for learning, for creativity — for trying something new.” 

Her students filled her classroom with the sounds of excited chatter, oohs, aahs and occasional fits of delight involving jumping up and down.

Art can actually help kids — and adults — relax and recharge, Rhone said.

“It’s soothing,” she said. “You can forget about everything else that’s worrying you. And you can hang it up on a wall.”  

Art projects can also offer enriching sensory experiences for kids.

Melina, a 5-year-old in an Eagan Art House camp, worked with colorful shaving cream to create her art project, a light blue background accented with red around the edges.

“Art camp is the best! I get to make lots of stuff and my mom said I was an artist!” she said, glowing and adding another huge dollop of shaving cream to her paper.  


A place to hang out 

The Eagan Art House came into being about 20 years ago when a house was donated to the city of Eagan. Today the garage is a clay studio, the living room is the main art studio and a relatively new addition is home to three kilns. 

Located at the edge of Patrick Eagan Park, the community arts center offers an ideal camp location for kids, who can run around outside on fair summer days when they need to burn off energy. 

Inside the art house, visual arts instructors work to create an environment that encourages friendship and free expression, said Eagan Art House supervisor Julie Andersen.

“It’s a community gathering space,” Andersen said of the venue, which serves 5,000 people per year and more than 400 children in summer. “Some people just want to be around art. Some people want to learn how to do it.”

Making discoveries

At all of the camps, talking ebbs and flows depending on what the campers are doing. Downtime, like waiting for supplies to be set up or stopping for snack time, is an invitation for the kids to talk and get to know each other. 

During camp last summer, the kids talked about their ages, games they wanted to play and even their personal experiences with zombies — anything that came to their minds, excitement making their words come out fast. 

When the campers began working on a particularly important part of an art project, though, the noise died down as they focused.  

When Isaiah, a 7-year-old in one of the Eagan Art House’s camps, explained the yarn-covered journal he’d made on the first day, he was nothing if not a proud artist with a curator’s eye. 

“I like art because it’s beautiful,” he said. 

Pointing to a rich pink he described as burgundy, he said, “This color is my mom’s favorite color.” 

Swirls of mottled blue, he said, represent his favorite hues. 

“And here are the leaves,” he said, touching a large area covered in oval rings made of yarn. “They are every color.”

Lianna Matt is a Twin Cities journalist who loves traveling and meeting people on the job — even if she is a bit directionally challenged.

Photo by Amy Brosam

Eagan Art House

This community art center, established 20 years ago in a renovated house next to Patrick Eagan Park, offers classes and exhibits year-round for all ages, including summer day camps in which kids can learn drawing, painting, sculpting, mixed media and more.

Ages: 4–14

Dates: June 12–Aug. 31

Hours: Morning and afternoon half-day camps, offered on select Mondays and Wednesdays can be bundled to create full days of camp. This year, look for a new full-day camp during the last week of June (Monday through Thursday). Camp Creative one-day camps will be offered on select Fridays.

Location: 3981 Lexington Ave. S., about a mile northwest of Eagan High School

Cost: $32–$295