Anna Zeidman has established career goals at the age of 15 that include becoming either an animator or a video game designer and the Young Artists Academy at the Marco Island Center for the Arts is helping her develop the skills to turn that vision into reality.
“It’s a free place where you can study art so people like me, who don’t have a lot of money, can come here and learn,” said the Marco resident who is a drawing enthusiast.
Held on eight Saturdays in October and November, the Academy provides artistically talented middle-and-high-school students with the opportunity to learn techniques and to further develop skills. They can choose from classes in clay, drawing and photography taught by practicing, professional local artists. However, youths can only enroll in two classes during each session.
Participants must be recommended by an art teacher from their school to qualify for the Academy, which is also attended by home-schooled children. Children are recruited from Manatee and Marco Island Charter middle schools, Marco Island Academy and Lely High School, said Hyla Crane, the Center for the Arts’ executive director, who started the Academy in 2014.
The program has proven to be popular, with enrollment this year standing at the maximum of 30. Of them, 12 participants have either been part of the Academy previously or the center’ssummer workshops, or both.
Zeidman, 15, has attended the Academy for all three years of its existence. She said she’s been drawing cartoons “ever since I was a little girl” and the knowledge gained about such things as the grid technique and contour lines have been helpful.
Painter Tara O’Neill, of Goodland, has been the drawing instructor since the program’s start. She said she enjoys her role because of the children’s passion
“Everybody in this class and all the classes that I’ve had, they really want to be here,” she said. “For a kid to devote two hours on a Saturday morning; they all really want to be here and they really want to advance on their artistic journey.”
Crane said she is very grateful to the instructors for committing themselves to the eight-week program.
O’Neill is joined by two new instructors this year, Richard Tindell, of Naples, who teaches photography, and Alyssa Baladad, of Fort Myers, who teaches clay.
Tindell taught at the college level for more than 35 years and also teaches at the Naples Digital Photography Club, where he is a member. This is his first time instructing students in the Academy’s age group.
“We’re starting out simply with this is a button and this is a lens and talking about shooting with intent, talking about what it is you want to say withyour pictures so it becomes more than just a photography,” he said. “It gives you an opportunity to tell a story or to express and emotion or a feeling to share something in the way that you experienced it, as opposed to just a grab shot.”
Baladad, 23, graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in December with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. She has taught art at the after-school programs of the United Arts Council of Collier County, Golden Gate High School and Grace Place for Children and Families, in Naples.
Seeing youngsters progress over time is something she enjoys.
“It’s awesome,” said Baladad. “Some of them come in and they have knowledge of the materials and others are just testing the waters for the first time. So it’s interesting to see how the group that just started is a little more creative and pushing the boundaries because they don’t know what to expect, as opposed to the kids who have done it before.”
Participants keep the artworks they create.
“I like to believe that because we finish up so close to the holidays, that some of their work ends up under the (Christmas) tree as gifts for some lucky parent or grandparent or brother or sister,” said Crane.
For more information about the Marco Island Center for the Arts and its programs, exhibitions and special events, visit marcoislandart.org.