Kids  making musical instruments at PAFA summer art camp last year. Photo: PAFA
Kids  making musical instruments at PAFA summer art camp last year. Photo: PAFA

“Kids who value differences in their neighbors will build a future for everybody”


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“Kids who think creatively, who are empathetic, who value the differences in their neighbors, are the types of kids who will build a future that everyone wants to live in.”

This is what Monica Zimmerman, Director of Museum Education at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), believes. As a way of putting those those beliefs  into practice, PAFA is adding a bilingual component to its Summer Art Camp programs this year.

For three weeks in July, children ages four through six will have the unique opportunity to participate in an art camp that is taught in both Spanish and English, giving children the chance to meet Spanish and English-speaking friends and learn about other cultures, all through creative play and art-making.

“At the heart of PAFA’s mission is education through art – but educating is more than just teaching facts and being creative is more than just being good at drawing. We want to help kids celebrate the unknown, build vocabulary and friendships around new experiences they don’t get at home and dream about the world in is as many languages as they can,” Zimmerman said.

This is the first time that the museum has combined art making with a Spanish/English camp experience. As Zimmerman said: “At this age, 4 to 6, there’s an incredible appetite in kids to seamlessly build new vocabulary and cultural understandings in a creative and social environment.”

The new camp experience also dovetails with PAFA’s exhibition schedule, which will have SWARM on view during the summer months, featuring work by Didier William and Nestor Armando Gil, whose artworks reflect their exploration of their respective Cuban-American and Haitian-American backgrounds.

PAFA has been dedicated to work with the Latin community in Philadelphia for the last five years and we’ve learned so much from the students and parents that have become part of the PAFA family. Many of them come from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, as well as Central and South America, and it’s essential that those cultures and heritages, even their vocabularies, are part of how we define ‘American art.’”

When asked if this kind of bilingual experiences could help Latino teenagers to be more confident and less ashamed to speak Spanish at school or in the street, Zimmerman said:  

No child should ever feel ashamed of the language they speak or the culture they come from. Art by its very nature celebrates a diversity of experiences – what we make comes from who we are – and we hope that this type of camp can be a place where every student’s individual strengths, their languages and traditions, are sources of pride.”

The summer’s offerings include three weeks of this new camp model.

During “Caribbean Paradise” (July 9 – 13), campers will learn about the tropical islands around Central America and make art about pirates, animals and the natural world.

During “Folk Art Traditions” (July 16 – 20), campers will learn weaving, mask making and more through an imaginary adventure to South America.

During “Stories of Latin America” (July 23 – 27), campers will take inspiration from the best new children’s books and make art inspired by the characters, traditions and countries they come from.

For more information or to register for the program, visit

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