MoCA Westport’s winter camp offers creative outlet

Photo of Katrina Koerting

WESTPORT — MoCA Westport’s winter recess art camp kicked off its second year on Monday with COVID restrictions in place and art supplies in hand.

“Our fantastic team of art teachers are looking forward to helping (campers) learn to express themselves, socialize with other kids and develop an appreciation and understanding of the arts,” said Colleen Thomas, head of educational development for MoCA.

The winter recess camp is one of several the museum has rolled out since the pandemic hit to offer additional support to children.

“We started our MoCA Academy programs in fall 2020, starting with the POD academic and art enrichment sessions in response to children’s needs for creative outlet and tutoring support while under the stress of life with COVID-19,” said Thomas. “From there we built additional programming including our school recess camps — of course with utmost safety precautions in place — and then art classes for students of all ages, from babies through adults.”

The camps are designed for students in pre-K through third grade.

Thomas said the organization has been around for more than 50 years but have only been in the current space for a short time and so staff are always creating programs to meet the community’s evolving needs.

“Our educational programs and camps have been designed by teachers whose goal is to help kids in our community thrive,” Thomas said. “We understand that when children have the opportunity to engage with the arts, they develop critical skills such as how to connect with others, build their self-esteem and confidence, expand their creativity, and increase their curiosity about their world.”

More than 100 children signed up over the program’s five days, which offer morning and afternoon sessions.

Thomas said there are a number of precautions in place, including limiting camp enrollment. Students and teachers must wear masks at all times while indoors.

“In response to the current uptick in COVID-19 cases, our Academy has capped our class enrollment for Winter Recess Camp at 15 as opposed to our typical capacity of 24 so that we can ensure that our students have adequate space to work at a safe distance from one another,” Thomas said.

She said the expansive gallery space with museum-grade air filtration systems also help, as does the outdoor garden and playground. Adult visitors are also required to show proof of vaccination while attending large events.

“At MoCA Westport, health and safety precautions are our top priority, and our COVID precautions have remained in place out of an abundance of caution,” Thomas said.