Meet a Camp Director » Kate Morse from Saratoga Arts!
1) Tell us a little about yourself and how you ended up at Saratoga Arts.
I grew up in the area and, even as a teenager, knew Saratoga Arts as a great resource for our region. After my husband and I decided to settle in Greenwich and raise a family there, I was thrilled when a position opened at Saratoga Arts and I was able to join such a wonderful organization that I’ve always admired. I’ve got a background in theater and visual arts, as well as education, so this just felt like a perfect fit for me. This fall will mark 4 years as Director of Education for Saratoga Arts and it’s been fantastic to not only bring arts programs and opportunities to so many people, but to have the chance to really get to know so many of them in the process.
2) What do you love most about your job?
Honestly, it really boils down to the fact that I love having the opportunity to get to know so many people who are interested in the arts. Everyone has very different reasons as to why they walk through our doors, and it’s amazing to watch how, at the end of the day, whether it’s a 6 year old who is with us for a summer camp or an artist who makes their living through their work, their faces light up in the exact same way when they see a piece they like or they create something they’re happy with. I love being able to be a part of that, and see that process. I’ve always believed that everyone should have access to the arts – in whatever form that may take – and it’s very rewarding to be a part of an organization and a community that believes that as well.
3) How long has Saratoga Arts been offering camps for kids?
We’ve been offering summer and school break camps for over 20 years now – ever since we moved into “the old library” at 320 Broadway. We started out with just a few weeks of camps and, thanks to our amazing teachers and camp families who have spread the word and helped the program grow, we now offer 5 different programs in visual, theatrical, and literary arts that span 10 weeks of summer. We also offer visual and theater camps during school breaks throughout the year.
4) Approximately how many campers attend each summer?
Last year we had 450 campers take part in our summer camps and we’re already well on our way to top that number this year! As large as that number is, we work very hard to make sure that our class sizes never get too big. It’s very important to us that the camper to teacher ratio remains low because that individualized help and attention is what really lets kids learn and grow creatively.
5) What makes the camp programs at Saratoga Arts unique?
Our camps are a fantastic (and fun!) way for kids to learn about their art of choice in a relaxed, supportive, and creative environment. Our visual arts campers have the opportunity to use materials that “real” artists use, and each summer they each create a 10″x10″ masterpiece that gets hung in the Arts Center Gallery during our community 10×10 Exhibition! Theater campers spend their session learning just what it takes to produce a play, from deciding what they’ll perform, to designing costumes and painting sets. They show off all their hard work at the end of the week when they perform for their friends and families in our theater space upstairs. Children who are interested in literature and take part in our “Page Turners” camp that we offer in partnership with Northshire Bookstore not only have the chance to spend their days playing games, doing activities, and discussing books that they’re sent at the beginning of summer, they also get to meet the authors of those books and go on field trips to Northshire and the Saratoga Springs Library for behind the scenes tours! No matter what camp – or camps – children attend they spend their time here at Saratoga Arts having a lot of fun and, just as importantly, learning some new things while they’re at it.
6) What does a typical day look like?
Our visual arts campers – whether the “little guys” who are in our Imagination Rules group for ages 5 – 7, which runs from 9am – 12pm, or our “big kids” who are in either Camp Creativity for ages 8 – 14 or the Teen Arts Camp for 12 – 15, who are with us from 9am – 4pm – spend the day with multiple teachers working on multiple projects, with snack (and lunch) breaks in between. Usually we have art making sessions that run for about an hour and fifteen minutes with a half our break in the morning, and then for lunch, and then again in the afternoon. When the weather is cooperative our campers get to go out and enjoy some sun and fresh air in Congress Park, which is right outside our doors! We structure the day that way because hey, not every camper is going to be in love with every single project, so all they have to do is wait…because they’ll get to work on something completely different in just a little bit! They could be out in the park doing a landscape painting before lunch and then inside creating a found art sculpture after they eat!
Our theater campers are with us from 9am – 4pm and spend the day playing lots of theater and improv games, learning about stage direction, blocking, and painting sets, and, of course, rehearsing to get ready for their big show at the end of the week. You can probably imagine, that group is never shy about letting me know how much fun they’re having, and every time I stick my head in to check on things I’m treated to updates from all the kids about what part they’ve gotten, what special detail they’ve decided that their costume simply can’t go without, or, when I’m really lucky, an invitation to watch a rehearsal and get a sneak peek of the show! (I’m always sworn to secrecy that I won’t tell any parents too many details, but I am allowed to say how well they’ve all done.)
Page Turners campers (ages 8 – 12) are with us for the full day as well, and spend each day focusing on one of the books that they’ve all received in early June. Obviously 8 – 12 can be a significant age range, especially when it comes to reading levels, but the books that are chosen for each week are carefully curated to be fun and interesting reads for all ages…and interests. Last year we had a book about service dogs and a seeing eye dog training group came with their dogs and visited with all of us, there was a graphic novel, a book about Abraham Lincoln’s grave robbers…and they were all hits. I always assure campers (and parents) that kids absolutely do not have to read all of the books in order to have fun at camp. No matter how much or how little they’ve gotten through, they’ll have a blast playing all the games, doing crafts, and getting to actually meet the authors! I can’t imagine a better way for a child who loves books to get to spend a bit of their summer.
7) How do you find and hire your instructors?
All of our instructors have been with us for years – which is part of the reason our camps are so wonderful. They really have a history with so many of our return campers who have grown up in our camp programs…the teachers know them, and the kids know the teachers! It just makes the camps wonderful when the children have that type of relationship with the instructors…and I think it’s reassuring for new campers to see that as well. Our visual arts instructors are all either NYS or BOCES certified and almost all of them are teachers from our local school systems, our theater camp teachers have been running our program for almost 10 years now and are either theater teachers in a local school or on their way to receiving their masters, and our Page Turners camp teacher is an English teacher at a local school and staff member of Northshire Bookstore! We are incredibly fortunate to be able to have such an amazing team of talented and passionate people make up our camp staff – we certainly could not do it without them.
8) Anything new for this year?
I always say every year is a “new” year when it comes to camp. Each week is always a new adventure because we always have new campers, new projects, and new experiences! We have different themes for each week of camp that teachers use as jumping off points for their lessons, and our teachers work hard to have different projects each week. That way when we have campers who are with us for the entire summer they aren’t ever stuck doing the same thing twice. For ten weeks worth of camp that equals a lot of art!
9) What do you hope your campers take away with them from their camp experience?
First and foremost I hope they have fun. Sometimes a camper will be frustrated because their project isn’t coming out the way they wanted or they’re worried that they’ll forget their lines on stage and I always shrug and tell them “Hey, it’s just camp!” The last thing we want is it to be a place where perfection is expected and fun and spontaneity and experimentation are frowned upon. You’re painting a cityscape and want Godzilla to be in the background swatting at airplanes? Awesome! You think that your character in the play really needs heavy framed glasses and a pocket protector to sell the look? Love it. Long story short, no matter what camp they attend, it’s our goal to make sure that they have fun and, yes, help campers learn something too. We want all of our campers to walk out the door on Friday with a smile on their face and something new – whether it’s a new art technique or a new experience – under their belts.
10) Are there any particular items that always seem to get left behind and should be labeled?
Good question! I’d have to say that the items at the top of my list are lunch bags and water bottles…I have an ever growing collection of them up in my office that gather dust until I finally cry “uncle!” and wash and donate them. I will say the majority of left-behind-items find their way home eventually, but it does help to pause at the end of the day and double check that your camper has everything that they came in with.
11) Is there still space available in the summer camp programs?
We do still have space in almost all weeks and all camps…but they are filling up. This is the time of year when spots start going fast, and we do run out of room, especially in the Camp Creativity and Theater Camps. We also ask that Page Turner campers register by June 1st so they have a chance to read at least some of the books that are part of their session. If you do try to register for a specific week or camp and it’s full, definitely reach out and I’ll put your child’s name on a waiting list. Summer schedules are funny things and more often than not we have a cancellation or two and we can squeeze kids in.
12) How can parents contact you?
For general information on camp and week availability – as well as online registration – I’d say the first stop is our website: www.saratoga-arts.org/education/summercamp. That gives a good general overview of each of our programs and is the quickest and easiest way to sign your child up. If you have questions or want to chat a bit more about our camps I’m always available by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call me from 9am – 4pm M-F at Saratoga Arts: 518-584-4132. And of course you can always stop by the Arts Center, as well!
Thank you so much Kate!
This post has not been sponsored in any way.
Photo Credits: Kate Morse (her photo and the classroom instruction photo), Julie Betts (the exterior photo of Saratoga Arts)