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An instructor leads a workshop on card-making at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
An instructor leads a workshop on card-making at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards

North Country Arts Council brings out kids' creativity

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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, and it 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.

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Reported by

Joanna Richards
Watertown Correspondent

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I learn something the moment I sit down with a group of kids: Cookie decorating ain't what it used to be.

Ten-year-old Jonah Frechette explained his complex creation.

A performer from the fire dancing troupe Fire Magick teaches kids how to hoop-dance at the North Country Arts Council's space in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
A performer from the fire dancing troupe Fire Magick teaches kids how to hoop-dance at the North Country Arts Council's space in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
"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, I discover, and with some nifty stencils you can make all kinds of cool patterns on pastries. The instructor also demonstrates techniques using paintbrushes, and the traditional squeeze bags filled with colored icing.

The eight or so kids get to work making all kinds of cookies. They make tie-died cookies. They make patterned cookies. They make cookies with complex scenes of shining suns, rainbows, and animals. The young artists coo over each other's creations, and then gobble them up. Then they complain about the sour taste of all that vivid dye.

Kids make birthday cards during a day of art workshops at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
Kids make birthday cards during a day of art workshops at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
Sugared up, the kids switch gears for the next project: making a snazzy homemade birthday card. The instructor tries to tame the chaos, and begins handing out materials.

"We wanted to provide a fine arts opportunity for the community," says 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 encompass a wide range of activities. A musician teaches piano lessons. In a paper cutting workshop, kids use scissors, colored paper and glue to create their art, emulating a technique made famous by the artist Matisse.

"We have a little bit of everything, for everyone's tastes, I guess," Peck says.

Jonah Frechette squeezes icing onto a cookie during a cookie-decorating workshop at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
Jonah Frechette squeezes icing onto a cookie during a cookie-decorating workshop at the North Country Arts Council's studio in Watertown. Photo: Joanna Richards
In one workshop, nine-year-old Daniel Rogers makes a painting inspired by stained glass, and in the process, learns 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 explains.

To cap off the day, performers from the local fire dancing troupe Fire Magick gets the kids moving, with hoop dancing lessons.

"Try going forward, walk, and then back," the instructor encourages the kids, demonstrating the moves and turning up the dance music.

More than a dozen kids swoop 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.

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