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Young artists in grades kindergarten through four show their paintings they created during the Paint Mixer's inaugural summer camp that was held June 17 through June 20. The group, led by Anne-Marie Buckland and Brenda Hotteye, displayed their works in a session-ending exhibit. (Photo courtesy of The Paint Mixer)
Art is an important element in the lives of Anne-Marie Buckland and Nicky Lecher.

Buckland is an artist and art educator and Lecher is the owner of the Paint Mixer,

The two met in 2005 when Lecher volunteered to help Buckland with an art class at a local elementary school.

The two developed a lasting friendship that bled into a new children's summer camp program at the Paint Mixer.

The four-day camps will run through Aug. 5 and are offered to two age groups — kindergarten through fourth grade and fifth grade through ninth grade.

The next session for the older group will start on Monday, July 8, and run through July 11. The next younger-group camp will run from Monday, July 15, through July 18.

Additional camps are Aug. 5 through Aug. 8 for older students and Aug. 12 through Aug. 14 for the younger ones.

"The underlined thing was that we have had so many parents come and ask us specifically other than our family days what we have to offer for children," Lecher said. "They've asked us if we have more extended programs as well."

So, she and Buckland agreed that summer would be the best time to introduce these camps.

"We wanted to go a step further and decided if we were going to spend a few days with these kids, we should really give them more in-depth instruction," Lecher said. "So, Anne-Marie came in and designed the whole curriculum."

Buckland knew she didn't want to just offer a camp where parents would drop their kids off so they could have 2 ½ hours to themselves.


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"I was saved by art as an elementary student, because it was my favorite time of the day and a very positive experience for me," she said. "I found myself lost in the different lessons, and I knew if the kids were going to get anything out of the class, it had to be an intensive and engaging camp."

Each student will paint at least 10 hours a week, said Buckland, who leads the sessions with her assistant Brenda Hotteye.

"But it's more than that," she said. "We take apart images and learn concepts, and on our breaks, we go on a walkabout and visit the galleries around town."

That's when Buckland and students really connect with each other.

"When we are at the galleries, I ask the class to show me an example of some of the concepts we have been working on such as contrast, complementary colors or tertiary colors," she said. "I ask them to show me what a subject is or tell me what makes a work strong. That way, these kids will have to use the things we have learned."

At the end of the week, the paintings are displayed at the Paint Mixer in an exhibit.

"We have classical music going and serve sparkling apple cider," Buckland said. "So, they get a feel of what an artist opening is like."

During the last reception, which capped off the Paint Mixer's first camp that ran from June 17 through June 20, Lecher noticed how much each child's understanding of art had developed.

"What struck me wasn't just the four paintings that each kid did, but the engaging conversations they were having with their parents," she said. "In turn, the parents have told us that their kids want to go stroll the galleries in town."

That's what art does, Buckland said.

"It's a connector," she explained. "These kids are so open and their minds are so receptive when they are at this age, so what happens is, they use both hemispheres of their brain when participating in the camps. One side is used when creating something and the other works on decision-making."

The camps also give the children an opportunity to interact with peers and relieve tension.

"One thing that these camps will teach is how to alleviate back-to-school stress," Lecher said. "When kids come into the Paint Mixer camps for the first time, they are nervous, because they are probably doing something that is outside of their comfort zone."

But after the camps, the kids walk out with confidence.

"They feel peace because they were able to succeed in learning to paint and had a lot of fun," she said. "They learned how to get through that stressed feeling. So, when they start to feel apprehensive about going back to school, the parent can say, 'Remember when you walked into the Paint Mixer and how you felt and remember how you felt afterwards?'

"It's not about parents being a bandage when a problem exists," Lecher said. "This is a tool parents can give them to solve a problem. It's about communication and creating ties with kids who are going through a similar experience."

The Paint Mixer, 738 Main St., offers summer painting camps in July and August. The cost is $140, and the price includes all the supplies needed to create four separate paintings. Registration is being accepted at www.thepaintmixer.com . For more information, call (435) 604-0820.