For the past year, Smartypants Art Studio in Downtown Merced has been offering young artists the chance to explore a wide range of artistic mediums and techniques in a colorful classroom setting. Located at 523 West Main Street and run by Dawn Bankson, the studio is formed around Bankson’s two and a half decades of expertise as a teacher working to develop young minds, ten years of which has been dedicated to teaching art coursework specifically.
Bankson got into the world of art at a young age on the Black Isle in Scotland where she was introduced to the world of fine art by a local potter who came to her class. Bankson recalled that she wasn’t really a fan of school during her formative years, but that all changed when Mr. Dunn, the local potter who would be working with her class, made his way into the room. It seems that those early experiences would serve as a guiding moment, and she now works to instill that same sense of excitement in the young students making their way through her doors.
Working to ensure that local students who find themselves uninterested in extracurriculars typically offered by schools, Bankson forms her curriculum with a few goals in mind. First and foremost, the classes are structured to ensure that those that take part in Smartypants Art Studio have a productive outlet. Secondly, the classes connect the exploration of artistic principals like line, color, texture, and form with other subject matter such as geography, history, and math.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, the cheerful environment that is cultivated with each group and small class size of eight students ensures students feel safe trying new things, opening up to those around them, and developing new friendships as their social skills develop.
Programs offered by Smartypants Art Studio include options for all age ranges. Starting at ages two to four, the one hour Parent and Me classes work to introduce both child and caretaker alike to the possibilities of artistic creation. For the classes, participants are encouraged to wear clothing that can get dirty as the studio is transformed into a series of art stations to allow for open creation. Class sessions run for four weeks.
Older artists from ages five to seven are able to take part in the Level One classes. For one hour for four weeks, students focus on an artist chosen by Bankson each week and create artworks in that artist’s style. Students taking part in the sessions must be able to use scissors to aid them as they begin to explore balance, line, form, color and more.
The Level Two classes are targeted at young artists ages eight through twelve. For each four week session, an artist is chosen and will be explored throughout the four one-hour classes. Throughout this level students have been immersed in learning how to shade by reproducing still life scenes, create self-portraits, create wire sculptures, and new painting techniques.
When asked about her source of motivation to keep her classes learning, Bankson pointed to the enthusiasm her students put on display as they walk in the door for each class. “The reaction is just magical when they realize what can create when given the space,” said Bakson. “They begin to grow both artistically and become more confident of the session.” Bankson went on to say that she loves being able to provide a safe and enjoyable space for children, often reinforced to the young artists with the mantra “there are no mistakes in art.”
To learn more about Smartypants Art Studio, readers can log onto smartypantsartstudio.com where they can view both pricing and class session times. Currently the studio is approaching the end of their summer session and will be posting class times for the fall session shortly. For the most up to date information, residents can follow the studio on Facebook and Instagram, where pop up offerings and class notices are regularly posted.