Three reasons Bay Area parents love this summer studio program

Middle schoolers in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades from all over the Bay Area make art at the Young Artist Studio Program in San Francisco.

With summer approaching, parents are starting to plan how to keep their middle school students engaged, focused, and with a certain level of structure when school’s out.

For the parent of the creative student or student who wants to learn art, however, there is one easy choice: the Young Artist Studio Program (YASP for short) at California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

YASP is a summer art program, where over the course of one week, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students of all skill levels gain hands-on experience in art making within a chosen medium from a wide selection of offerings, from animation or graphic design to illustration or fashion design, jewelry making or painting, and more.

A student points to their artwork installed in a gallery wall

The Young Artist Studio Program (YASP) enrolls middle school students from around the Bay Area to make art during one week in the summer.

“Trying to decide what to have your kids do each summer is tricky as it has to fit both the kids’ interest and the parents’ schedule, which sometimes is impossible to align,” says Ryan Parham, associate director of Studio Operations at CCA. “Our approach has been to find those summer camps and activities they don’t have access to within their typical school year—surf camp, circus camp, skateboard camp, etcetera—and these YASP weeks fit right in.”

Here are three reasons why the program is a favorite among Bay Area parents from the CCA community.

A wide variety of individual studios to match student interests

Students have many options to explore art making. And with such studio offerings as Animation, Ceramics & Drawing, Illustration & Drawing, Jewelry Making & Metal Arts, and Fashion Design & Illustration, it can be difficult to choose just one. (This summer, YASP offerings have expanded to two sessions: one in June and one in August.)

A gropu of students stand over individual in-process clay artworks

Students learn from practicing artists or designers with experience teaching middle school-aged students.

“My daughter enrolled in the YASP summer Graphic Design Studio,” says Irene Cheng, associate professor and chair of MArch Architecture at CCA. “She loves art, and when she was younger, she did a ton of children’s art classes that emphasized creativity in general. As she got older, she was looking for more serious art and design classes that would help her develop specific skills and advance technically. Also, we were drawn to the wide array of art and design offerings at CCA. It was hard for her to choose a class!”

One of Elizabeth Mangini’s middle schoolers enrolled in the Jewelry Making & Metal Arts Studio.

“The one who did jewelry making was brand new to it and really enjoyed it even though it was frustrating at first to break so many wire saws!” says Mangini, who is also the chair of the History of Art and Visual Culture at CCA. “They worked through it and created incredible wearable pieces, including ones with engraving on them.”

She adds, “They enjoyed it so much they’ve signed up again this year.”

Opportunities to learn something brand new or deepen artistic skills

Although YASP students select just one topic to focus on for the duration of the program, tailored instruction with practicing professionals allows students to try something completely new or build on what they already know.

“My other child chose the Painting and Drawing Studio, which is something they have always enjoyed,” says Mangini, “They were happy to be in the studio and learned a lot of new techniques, especially related to color theory and layering.”

A student wearing goggles carefully cuts into materials over a workbench.

Choose from studios ranging from Animation to Jewelry Making & Metal Arts, Illustration & Drawing to Film & Photography, Comics & Visual Storytelling to Architecture & Interior Design, and more.

Ryan Parham notes how the tailored instruction takes the pressure off students who are trying something new or realize they might want to try something else.

He says, “These one-week YASP programs are great because they allow the kids to audition what feels right to them or interests them with no obligation to continue with it afterwards.”

Studios are also praised for their depth and instruction of both the fundamentals and development of artistic techniques.

Irene Cheng says, “[Her daughter] gained great technical skills, including an introduction to Adobe software tools that professional graphic designers use. The projects were fun and well scaffolded, helping her to develop an understanding of composition, typography, and scale.”

New friendships and a taste of professionalism

The Young Artist Studio Program’s week of activities culminates in a special exhibition of student work on campus. It gives students a preview at professional practices as well as a fun celebration of their achievements.

When they reflect on the experience, YASP parents say a favorite for their students is the friends they make and the community they build.

“They have a wonderful opportunity to meet and interact with other intro/extrovert kids outside of their typical friend group which has really reduced their fear in meeting new people,” says Parham. “They come back each day energized from what they have learned, who they have met, and what they plan to do the next day.”

Cheng says, “My daughter loved YASP, and she loved being among like-minded creative types and made several new friends over the course of the week. Summer is the perfect time to explore, and YASP offers a great opportunity to try a new creative discipline.”

Four middle school students huddle together over a book while smiling and giggling.

YASP students get the opportunity to make new friends outside of school.

“Honestly, I wish the programs were available during more weeks of the summer,” says Mangini. “It is an investment, but they are so well cared for, with a full day of art making, a great lunch, and a show at the end. My kids were really proud of the work they did and they thought it was so cool to be on a college campus.”

We’ve got summer for your middle schooler covered. YASP registration for its June 10–14, 2024 and August 5–9, 2024 programs is now open.