Two summer camps offered on Main Street in Lakewood Ranch give children a chance to explore their artistic talents

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A pair of art specialty retailers along Main Street in Lakewood Ranch are trying to preempt that old woeful tale of summer boredom.

Emma Balak and her younger sister Julia are developing their artistic talents at a drop-off summer camp at Let's Create Art, a 3-year-old specialty retailer on Lakewood Main Street, offering art classes, paint parties and creative, themed art camps.

Just up the street, at Arts A Blaze, a paint-your-own-pottery and glass fusing studio, young artists are exploring their creativity at a weeklong summer camp, creating projects with pottery, acrylics on canvas, mixed media and fun mosaics. Owner Theresa Barion is in her sixth year of offering summer camp classes to students during their break from school.

Both summer programs are run on a weekly basis for campers between the ages of 5 and 12, with three-hour sessions held twice daily at Arts A Blaze and afternoon sessions at Let's Create Art.

Arts A Blaze offers one-day trials for first-timers, so children can experience a class and decide if they want to continue the rest of the week.

For 11-year-old Emma Balak, who will enter middle school this fall, the challenge of working with different mediums, learning new techniques, and making new friends is what makes the art camp special.

"It's fun, and you can meet friends who are really nice," Balak said, as she worked on a drawing of a horse with different geometric shapes for her

"dream pet" project of the week. Themes for campers at Let's Create Art have enjoyed year after year are Summer Splash, Stars and Stripes (celebrating Independence Day), Fantasy Land, Furry Friends and It's a Bug Life.

"Once the campers come in, it's hard for us to get them outside. They never want to leave. But, it's not surprising, because most of our campers are regular students who take classes during the year," store manager Kristy Howland said.

Some former campers, like 14-year-old Emma Bella, liked the summer art experience so much, she's now a paid teacher at Let's Create Art summer camp.

"I love it. I see little kids and I remember being taught how to paint, how to create projects, and it was so much fun for me. I've met so many people and established new friendships while creating art at the same time," said Emma Bella, who is looking forward to beginning her freshman year at Riverview High School in Sarasota.

Arts A Blaze summer camp, now in its sixth year, has proven its success, because the campers keep coming back every summer to explore different sessions with acrylics on canvas, fusing glass, painting pottery, and designing their own T-shirts, Barion said.

"Some children may need a little help, but for the most part, it's all their own creativity," Barion said. "We want your project to be your own. I hate to tell kids they can't have a green elephant. If they want green, they get green."

Information and registration online at and

Kathryn Moschella, East Manatee reporter can be reached at 941-745-7010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.