hearts to art summer program

While in-person schooling is still on hiatus, Chicago organizations are stepping up to help creative kids channel their energy and expression through virtual summer camps, classes and workshops.

This year, the Auditorium Theatre’s award-winning Hearts to Art summer camp will be held online with home-based activities. Designed for youths who have experienced the death of a parent, the free program inspires communication and fosters emotional growth by providing campers with a place to find friendship through dance, theater, art, and music.

“We need to support our Hearts to Art community now more than ever, while also making sure that everyone stays safe,” says Rich Regan, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “Even though camp will look a little different this summer, we’re thrilled that we can still provide these young people with a place to experience hope, healing, and solace through the arts. Our Hearts to Art campers will still be able to be together, even while physically apart.”

The re-envisioned camp, with programming developed by Hearts to Art Camp Director Sarah Illiatovitch-Goldman and her staff, is available to ages 7-10 (July 6-17) and ages 11-14 (July 20-31).

“Even though we can’t be together in person for the 16th summer of Hearts to Art, we still want to ensure that we are offering our campers a rewarding Hearts to Art experience, while also being accommodating and flexible because everyone’s situation is a little different,” explains Illiatovitch-Goldman. “All of the things that make camp so special, such as our weekly camper talent shows, our final performance showcase, our guest artist visits, and our performing arts activities, will still happen. We may be separated, but we want our campers to know that they are not alone.”

From June 23 to August 13, Mandala South Asian Performing Arts introduces children (ages 4 -10) to Indian classical arts with a range of summer camps and programs. Sessions provide an immersive virtual experience through various disciplines including Carnatic and Hidustani music; Bharatanatyam and Kathak dance styles; and yoga.

The Music Institute of Chicago is also holding virtual summer camps, classes, and special events through August, while Deeply Rooted Dance Theater offers Youth Division training thanks to its online curriculum in July.

Broadway Masters, Broadway Choreo Spotlight, Improv Electric, and Virtual Show Choir are the topics taught via the virtual master classes and workshops in BAMtheatre’s BAM @ a Distance ​– School’s Out Edition.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is hosting virtual performing arts camps and Play@Home classes on everything from improv to set design. Participants (ages 2 -13) need a smart device with the Zoom app, basic craft materials, and their own imaginations.

“Summer camps and classes at Chicago Children’s Theatre are a healthy mix of online group instruction with offline work to get kids’ creativity flowing and everyone out from in front of the screen,” notes Dexter Ellis, Director of Education and Community Programming. “We were one of the first theaters in the country to test our virtual learning model over spring break and did so with much success.”


Photo of past Hearts to Art summer campers by Julia Nash Photography.

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.