Family vacations in the summer of 2021 are not likely to include trips to faraway places, but children ages 4-12 who yearn for adventure can take Passport to Japan, a summer day camp that will immerse kids in the art and culture of the Land of the Rising Sun.

Passport to Japan is the 27th annual summer camp offered by ArtStart. Each year the camp focuses on a different country or continent. Japan was chosen this year to recognize Saint Paul’s sister city relationship with Nagasaki. At 66 years, it is the oldest sister city relationship between an American and Asian municipality, according to Carol Sirrine, founder and executive director of ArtStart.

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Children will learn the Japanese art of origami, or paper folding, in the Passport to Japan program offered this summer by Macalester-Groveland-based ArtStart.

Summer campers will be introduced to both traditional and contemporary Japanese art in the areas of dance, puppetry, painting, drawing, kite and mask making and robotics. They will learn about traditional Japanese clothing and such customs as bowing and serving tea.

This summer ArtStart will be offering two two-week sessions of outdoor camps for children ages 6-12—from June 28-July 9 and July 12-23 on the grounds of Mount Zion Temple, 1300 Summit Ave. Outdoor campers will have a choice of half-day or full-day sessions with two or four classes, respectively. A virtual camp for kids who would rather learn online will be offered weekday mornings from July 26-August 6.

Lisa Himmelstrip, a potter from Saint Paul’s West End and a former instructor at Central High School, will teach a class in clay. Using traditional hand-building techniques and such Japanese practices as underglazing and carving, her students will make tea pots and, if there is time, tea cups.

For children ages 4 and 5, ArtStart is offering the two-week virtual camp Start with the Arts from 10:30-11:30 a.m. July 12-16 and July 26-30. The online class will involve art making, dramatic play, creative movement and storytelling based on traditional and contemporary Japanese art and culture.

Last year ArtStart had to make a sudden transition from an in-person to a virtual summer camp when COVID-19 hit. Teachers spent eight weeks learning how to virtually deliver course content in both the performing and visual arts. The camp, Passport to Ecuador and Peru, was a success, Sirrine said, but she and her staff have since learned that after months of distance learning, parents really want their children to have a face-to-face experience this summer with teachers and other children.

 

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ArtStart has made every effort to ensure the safety of students and teachers at the in-person camps. Class cohorts will be limited to eight students each who will meet mostly outdoors under tents. Students will be provided with their own materials and not allowed to share. Masks will be required. Students will also bring their own lunches and snacks.

Most of Passport to Japan’s teachers have worked with ArtStart before. Lisa Himmelstrip, a potter from Saint Paul’s West End and a former instructor at Central High School, will teach a class in clay. Using traditional hand-building techniques and such Japanese practices as underglazing and carving, her students will make tea pots and, if there is time, tea cups.

Puppeteer Julie Boada will teach a class titled Toy Theater. Students will create small rod puppets, a miniature stage, backdrop and set pieces and then perform the folktale “Tsuru no Ongaeshi (The Grateful Crane)” with their puppets.

 

Linda Hashimoto van Dooijeweert will teach campers how traditional Japanese kimonos and short happi coats are worn. She will introduce them to taiko drumming and teach them the official dance of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. “Hopefully, it will inspire kids to learn more about Japan and possibly visit the country,” she said.

A third-generation Japanese American, Hashimoto van Dooijeweert first learned Japanese folk dance at age 7 and has performed in every Festival of Nations since. She began teaching Japanese dance in 1974 and is now the highest-ranking licensed and certified Japanese dance teacher in Minnesota.

Puppeteer Julie Boada will teach a class titled Toy Theater. Students will create small rod puppets, a miniature stage, backdrop and set pieces and then perform the folktale “Tsuru no Ongaeshi (The Grateful Crane)” with their puppets.

“Learning and retelling a traditional story is a great and fun way to taste a culture,” Boada said. In addition to exploring Japanese two-dimensional art, she added, the students will learn about the Japanese virtues of generosity, hard work and reciprocity through “The Grateful Crane.”

Visual artist and sculptor Jeanette Dickinson has worked with ArtStart for more than a decade. She has studied such Japanese arts as sumi-e (Japanese black ink painting), Nihonga painting and calligraphy with a Japanese teacher for many years. In Passport to Japan, she will teach Nihonga painting, textile printing and Japanese garden design.

 

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A member of a traditional Japanese dance group taught children the art of origami in a previous summer program offered by ArtStart.

ArtStart’s mission is to inspire creativity and illuminate the connections among people, ideas and the environment, according to Sirrine. “I want students to understand culture and the significance of that culture’s history,” she said. “We try to bring all the little pearls to bear on the people we serve.”

For more information, email carol@artstart.org. Scholarships are available as well as discounts for registering early.

—Janet Lunder Hanafin

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