The North Country Arts Council has been a growing force for cultural activity in the Watertown area since its inception in 2009. The group aims to spotlight the work of regional artists, but it also hopes to draw more community members into arts activities too. Over the schools' winter break this year, the organization offered a day full of different art workshops for kids at its home on Public Square.
At the North Country Arts Council in downtown Watertown, there's one lesson to be quickly learned from the group of kids here: cookie decorating ain't what it used to be.
Ten-year-old Jonah Frechette explained his complex creation.
“Well, I striped the cookie blue, then slashed it yellow, with stripes, and then took green icing and in the intersections, dotted it, so that it would kind of stick up, make, like a cool effect,” he said.
Food coloring these days comes in spray cans and with some nifty stencils you can make all kinds of cool patterns on pastries. The instructor also demonstrated techniques using paintbrushes, and the traditional squeeze bags filled with colored icing.
The eight or so kids got to work making all kinds of cookies. They made tie-died cookies. They made patterned cookies. They made cookies with complex scenes of shining suns, rainbows, and animals. The young artists cooed over each other's creations, and then gobbled them up. Then they complained about the sour taste of all that vivid dye.
Sugared up, the kids switched gears for the next project: making a snazzy homemade birthday card. The instructor tried to tame the chaos, and began handing out materials.
“We wanted to provide a fine arts opportunity for the community,” said Jamie Peck, head of the North Country Arts Council's education efforts. “Families could come in and participate in a variety of different fine arts activities, some hands-on, and others can be an experience that they take away with them, such as a yoga class, cookie decorating, things like that.”
The arts workshops held throughout the day encompassed a wide range of activities. A musician taught piano lessons. In a paper cutting workshop, kids used scissors, colored paper and glue to create their art, emulating a technique made famous by the artist Henri Matisse.
“We have a little bit of everything, for everyone's tastes, I guess,” Peck said.
In one workshop, nine-year-old Daniel Rogers made a painting inspired by stained glass, and in the process, learned about color mixing.
“We're putting tape down around the edge, and then making nine shapes and then painting the shapes, and we're mixing the colors and making different colors,” he explained.
To cap off the day, performers from the local fire dancing troupe Fire Magick got the kids moving, with hoop dancing lessons.
“Try going forward, walk, and then back,” the instructor encouraged the kids, demonstrating the moves and turning up the dance music.
More than a dozen kids swooped their hoops in a swirl of sound and color.
The Arts Council hopes this day of workshops will introduce kids to a broad range of artistic disciplines. The council's aim is to infuse more creativity into Watertown's cultural life – and hooking the city's kids is a good way to start.