Summertime fun for artistic kids 

Whistler Arts Council, artists and businesses find ways to offer activities to Whistler's crafty children

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Whistler has plenty of activities on offer for athletic kids - bike camps, swimming, soccer and ski camps are only the start. But what about the artistic kids who would rather be playing with paint and paper than, say, a ball or bike?

The options have been few and far between in this town of 10,000 year-round residents.

"Whistler is very sport and recreation focused, and if you're not an athlete and you're going to elementary school or high school, I think it's tough. So for a kid who isn't an athlete, who is interested in drawing or dancing or singing or whatever, it's much harder to actually pursue that interest and feel good about having that interest," said Doti Niedermayer, Executive Director of the Whistler Arts Council.

"I think that if you live in Vancouver or a larger urban centre, there's many more day camps, after school camps and arts umbrella-type organizations that exist solely for the purpose of developing young people's interest in the arts."

While WAC tries to promote local arts groups that are focused on the younger set, like the Whistler Children's Chorus, Soul Funktion and Expressions Art Studio, they've also been offering arts bursaries and awards to children in the Sea to Sky community for 23 years. The art awards recognize artistic achievement, while the bursaries are intended to encourage young people to continue to pursue their passion and interest in the arts by funding programs and courses. Many times, those programs and courses are found outside of Whistler, sometimes as far abroad as Ontario.

"Especially as kids get a little older and they start pursing theatre or dance or music, they start picking more serious schools or art camps that are at a higher level, and those are definitely in more urban centres," Niedermayer explained.

The winners of this year's award and bursary have already been selected, but they won't be announced publicly until they are presented at the schools in June.

Now, there are definitely a few businesses in town that are focused on catering to creative kids. In fact, there's a relatively new company in Whistler that's hoping to encourage young people to pursue their artistic passions. Layna Mawson opened her kids craft-oriented business, Orkidz Art Studio, in Function Junction in May 2009. There, she's been teaching local kids to sew, make sock monkeys and teddy bears, and just let their creative energies flow.

"This has been one of the most rewarding years of my life, working with these kids," Mawson said.

Last summer, when the business had only been open for a few months, things were pretty slow, as Mawson was still spreading the word. But now, things have really taken off. Last week's professional development day workshop was sold out a week in advance. Now, she's gearing up for a very busy summer, which will see her hosting full-day workshops Monday to Friday all summer long, running sessions with 10 to 12 kids per class.

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