Great Arts Camps for NYC Kids to Learn to Paint, Sculpt, Sing and Perform
There's no place better than New York City for kids to learn about art, and what better way for your child to pursue their creative passions than a summer art camp? Many professional artists moonlight as talented teachers, and the demand for art programs has created a wealth of exceptional art classes and arts camps. Whether your child is into visual arts, performing arts, or wants to sample all the arts, we've found After 15 exceptional arts camps, which all excel for different reasons.
We found visual arts camps, performing arts camps, and more creative camps with programs like circus arts. Some arts camps allow kids to sample a little of everything. From summer-long intensives to week-long sampler sessions, no matter their age, if your child is ready to dive into a summer of artistic expression, read on to find the perfect arts camp.
Note that summer camp information for the 2020 season is changing daily. Please click the links to the individual camps below to see which ones are offering programs this year.
Teaching artists lead the programming at CMA's summer camps.
Visual Arts Camps for New York City Kids
1. Children's Museum of the Arts Summer Art Colony – Tribeca, Governors Island & Prospect Park
103 Charlton Street between Hudson and Greenwich Streets
One thing I love about the summer camps at the Children's Museum of the Arts is they run on an artist's schedule. CMA summer art camps start at 10am, a very civilized hour, perfect for parents with creative jobs who don't need to be in the office at 9am. (It's the little things that make me happy.) For parents who have regular office jobs, children can be dropped off at 9am and stay until 5pm. CMA's programs are led by professional teaching artists and vary widely in content from animation classes to drawing and painting, puppetry, film, and more. We encourage you to check out CMA's Summer Art Colony Camps on Governors Island and at Lakeside in Prospect Park
2. Greenwich House – Greenwich Village
27 Barrow Street between Bleeker and West 4th Street
The Greenwich House Visual Arts Summer Camp encourages children to explore art individually and collaboratively. Once solely a pottery program, it now teaches a variety of mediums, including architecture, painting, drawing, ceramics, animation, and more. The Greenwich House school has been a New York institution for more than 100 years and is an incredible resource for New York City families interested in art. During the week, kids take field trips to museums, galleries, parks, and other places of interest. You can register your child for one to eight weeks.
3. Cooper Hewitt Design Camp – Upper East Side
2 East 91st Street
What better place to study visual arts than a Smithsonian Institution? Cooper Hewitt Design Camp offers week-long immersions in the latest advances in design, from fashion to architecture and technology. Guest designers share their problem-solving strategies and engage campers in fun, real-life design challenges. Campers receive exclusive access to the museum's permanent collection and enjoy exciting collaborations.
Buck's Rock offers kids professional-level materials, teachers, and facilities.
4. Buck's Rock Performing and Creative Arts Camp – New Milford, Connecticut
59 Buck's Rock Road
Sleepaway camp for ages 9-18
Buck's Rock is an incredible arts camp that gives kids access to professional-level arts facilities where they can learn glassblowing, metalsmithing, woodworking, sculpture, sewing, batik, weaving, printmaking, performing arts, and more. After a summer at Buck's Rock, your child will have had the opportunity to explore and participate in things many artists don't have access to until college, and many people will never get to try.
As a Buck's Rock alum, I can attest to how Buck's Rock gave me skills I was able to turn into real work later in life without any further professional training. I consider Buck's Rock a life-altering experience and a fantastic opportunity for any child seriously into the arts. (Note: Though they have great performing arts programming, I have placed Buck's Rock under visual arts because I think the visual arts facilities there are the thing that really distinguishes it from any other camp.)
5. Center for Architecture Camp – Greenwich Village
536 LaGuardia Place
Ages 8 & up
The Center for Architecture's Summer Programs give curious kids an opportunity to dive into an architectural topic of interest and test out their design ideas. Each program explores a different theme through art and building activities, design challenges, and special site visits. Campers are given the opportunity to take in and sketch architecture around the city.
6. Textile Arts Summer Camp – Brooklyn and Greenwich Village
505 Carroll Street
Campers are encouraged to create and connect with the world of contemporary and historical textiles in interactive week-long programs. Children will create an in-depth project in Weaving Class or Textile Surface Design Class, as well as daily craft projects using fiber and textile processes and concepts drawn from exhibitions visited on regular field trips.
Wet Paint! campers get a taste of life as an artist with plenty of inspirational field trips and hands-on instruction from the pros.
7. Wet Paint! ArtVentures! Art + Architecture Day Camp – Tribeca
118 Chambers Street between Church and West Broadway
ArtVentures! treats your kids like professional artists and architects. The day starts with a warmup drawing exercise in the art studio, followed by a presentation of a specific art or architecture project for the day. Then the campers head out into the city on a field trip to draw or paint at a museum, an architectural landmark, or in a park. Back at the studio, your little Michelangelo works on their studio art project. Wet Paint instructors are practicing artists and architects; counselors are college art or architecture majors.
8. The Barking Cat Studio Art in the City Summer Camp – Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn
219 Greenwood Avenue
Art in the City offers Brooklyn kids up to eight weeks of creative daily physical movement, and thought-provoking visits to museums and places around the city that inspire kids' daily art projects. Weekly themes include Mixed Media Madness, LEGO Building, Nature & Fiber Arts, and more.
9. The Painted Cloud – Williamsburg, Brooklyn
168 Marcy Avenue
Young artists work on art projects, along with drawing, choice time, snack, lunch, and outdoor play; upper elementary and middle school artists take an Art Trek field trip and explore the city a bit before returning to home base to create.
Each week of TADA! Camp ends with campers staging an original musical.
Theater and Performing Arts Camps for New York City Kids
10. TADA! Youth Theater Summer Camp – Flatiron
15 West 28th Street
TADA! is well-known for its performing arts programming year-round, but newcomers can get a taste of the action in its week-long summer camps. Campers are given a theme each session, and then their imaginations are allowed to run wild as they work with the organization's professional teaching artists to write, rehearse, and perform an original musical each week. Camp runs from 9am-5pm for the older campers and 9am-1pm for mini-campers (4-5 year olds).
11. Brooklyn Arts Exchange – Park Slope, Brooklyn
421 Fifth Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets
Brooklyn Arts Exchange's Summer Arts Program is a more relaxed "family-style" performing arts program with weekly sessions in movement, theater, music, storytelling, and more. Campers also participate in fun and original counselor-led activities such as arts and crafts, singing, yoga, and non-competitive sports. Each week-long session ends with a performance by campers on BAX's stage.
From the theater to horseback riding, the French Woods sleepaway camp lets kids pick a summer "major."
12. French Woods – Hancock, New York
199 Bouchoux Brook Road
Sleepaway camp for ages 7-17
French Woods sounds like kid-heaven if I've ever heard of it. Each child can pick his or her activities from a to-die-for assortment of "majors" including theater, arts, music, dance, sports, circus, waterfront, horseback riding, adventure, computers, skateboarding, sailing, rock and roll, magic, and many more. When French Woods advertises a circus program, for example, it's not teaching the kids to juggle and put on clown noses. French Woods has a 12,000 square foot, professionally equipped circus tent with trapeze, Spanish web, stunt bikes, fire twirling, and more, and the other activities at this summer camp are just as impressive.
Multi-Disciplinary Arts Camps for New York City Kids
13. Abrons Arts Camp – Lower East Side
Henry Street Settlement's Abrons Art Center, 466 Grand Street between Pitt and Willett Streets
Children can sample the professional instruction in dance, music, theater, and the visual arts, with classes taught by skilled teaching-artists and special workshops and performances presented by visiting guest artists. The camp also offers gallery educational tours and performance opportunities. Campers take a cultural field trip once a week.
14. Harlem School of the Arts – Harlem
645 Saint Nicholas Avenue
This community institution has long been a favorite summer home for uptown families. The ARTScape summer program provides campers classes across all art genres, from music, dance, and theater, to classes in visual arts, too. Last year, campers went on weekly field trips and hit the pool, and each two-week session culminated in a performance for families and friends.
15. West Side YMCA – Upper West Side
5 West 63rd Street
Kids participate in 20 hours of arts instruction per weekly session, including dance, drama, vocal music, and visual arts. Campers enjoy weekly field trips to shows and museums, swim in the indoor pool, and visit Central Park daily. Each session culminates with a performance in the theater.
All photos courtesy of the camps.
A version of this article was published in 2018; it has since been updated. Katie Nave Freeman contributed additional reporting.