With spring break right around the corner, parents may be looking for a way to break up the monotony. The El Paso Museum of Art’s spring camp aims to enhance children’s love of the arts while teaching them valuable, useful skills.

There are a total of seven classes offered, including ceramics, photography, painting and drawing. Classes are divided into age groups 6-8 and 9-12 and run from March 14-17.

Artist Phillip Romero teaches ceramics class.

“I believe through art, you can teach kids how to connect and how to live better lives,” Romero said. “I want to teach them that there’s art in everything: science, math and vice versa.”

Through art and its inherent quality of introspection, children will eventually learn how to not only think critically and solve problems, but to reconnect with another, Romero said.

“One of my goals is to teach them why it’s important to be a well-rounded person,” he said. “We live in a generation when we’re totally disconnected from one another; but art takes us back to a place where we can put down our phones, look at art work, and learn how to appreciate it.”

Museum school coordinator David Hernandez said a major goal of EPMA is to make art accessible to everyone in the community regardless of income. One way they do that is by offering scholarships.

“We want to make sure all children can take classes here,” Hernandez said. “We haven’t turned down anybody because we have that strong mission to open our doors to everybody.”

The museum’s Neighborhood Kids program also helps children develop literacy and problem solving in a fun, creative way.

“One of the main objectives of the Neighborhood Kids program is to integrate the museum as a resource kids can use along with the [school] curriculum,” Hernandez said. “If they’re studying something related to sea life in science, we have some portraits in the gallery related to that, and it provides a basis for discussion.”

Lamar and Aoy Elementary schools participate in the Neighborhood Kids program. Each month, beginning in September, teachers from each school bring in a grade level to the museum. The visit begins in the gallery to view and discuss a piece that has been chosen by one of the museum’s art instructors. After a period of discussion, the students are taken downstairs to the classrooms for some hands-on training. For the coming months, they create different forms of art inspired by the discussions, including prints, paintings and drawings.

“We encourage them to really look at the painting and to identify details and to then relate it to the real world and to what’s making an impact in their lives,” Hernandez said.

The program helps apply what the students learn at the museum to all areas of their school curriculum, including math, science and language arts. The curriculum for the state mandated STAAR test is also supported throughout the program.

Rebecca Mares, an art instructor at Aoy, has been involved in the program for about 15 years. Each month, she takes fourth graders to the museum.

“They’re required to take a writing test for the STAAR test,” she said. “In the past few years, we’ve had kids write about their experience at the museum.”

Hernandez sees the program as a way to extend a cultural experience to kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to the museum.

“We want to instill a sense of pride into these kids and let them know as citizens of this community, this is their museum,” he said.

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