Student Reviews of Summer Art Programs

Interviews and write-up by Jamie Paradis ’20.

Newark Academy students often spend their summers honing their creative craft in programs outside of NA. Here, students Ben Chaddha, Lori Hashasian, Jamie Paradis, Kaitlin Weiss, and Silvy Zhou reflect on their experiences at art programs in writing, visual art, and jazz.


Kaitlin Weiss, ’21, attended the New England Young Writers’ Conference, a three-and-a-half-day immersive reading and writing experience. NEYWC takes place at Middlebury’s Graduate School of English, the Bread Loaf Campus, in Ripton, Vermont. Kaitlin described, “Bread Loaf is absolutely stunning; yellow dormitories line the outside of the campus, and the middle is filled with grass, wild flowers, and enormous trees.” The basic outline of a day at NEYWC is waking up at either 6:30 for a nature hike, which Kaitlin highly recommends at least doing one of the days, or 7:30 and heading to breakfast. After breakfast students meet with their workshop group, then attend three readings from writers teaching at the conference.

Kaitlin said, “The readings were incredible every time, and ranged from poetry to creative nonfiction to fiction.” After readings students have free time and then a craft class, which they get to choose. Kaitlin’s person favorite was a craft class where she learned how to write a one-sentence run-on poem. Then students eat lunch, attend another workshop with writing prompts, three more readings, another craft class, dinner, and at night, optional open mics. Kaitlin passionately described, “I met some of the most amazing people I know at the conference, and am still in touch with them today. The creative environment was incredible, I had never been surrounded by so many passionate young writers. The conference requires an application, and applications for the 2020 Conference will be accepted from October 1st to November 22nd. I highly recommend anyone who loves writing and reading applies. I had never been to a writing conference before and I am so thankful that did not stop me from applying.”

Lori Hashasian, ’21, attended the Young Writer’s Workshop at the 92nd St Y. The workshop ran for three weeks, focusing on a different genre each week (poetry, fiction, nonfiction). She went for the last two weeks and each week had a different instructor, giving different perspectives on her work. Each night, students had a few pieces to read and a prompt for a writing assignment.

The workshop ran from 10am–3pm each day with a 1-hour break for lunch where students could go out and get food. In the morning, they discussed the readings, specifically looking at the author’s style and techniques that could be used in their own writing. In the afternoon, students workshopped each other’s work. Lori said, “The experience was a really amazing way to meet new people and build a community of passionate writers to share work with in the future. It was a supportive environment to generate new work and it pushed me to take risks and try new styles.” She described the overall guidelines as relaxed, making it possible to focus on writing whatever one wants to. Lori got to meet Myla Goldberg, the author of the new novel Feast Your Eyes, and also went to the Jewish Museum to write about the pieces on exhibition there. She says she would “recommend this program for anyone looking for a place to meet other driven writers and workshop their work.”


Jamie Paradis, ’20, attended art classes at the Art Students’ League of New York in Manhattan for four weeks. She took classes in figure drawing with a focus on human anatomy, still life paintings, and a workshop on oil painting. She learned a lot and her teachers were incredibly knowledgeable. The atmosphere of working around other people so passionate about art was inspiring. For students younger than 17, teen classes are offered, but students 17+ may sign up for adult classes. Jamie attended adult classes which were generally all older adults besides her; being the youngest in the class certainly made the experience slightly more daunting and vulnerable, but in general students were so focused on their work that she didn’t notice the age gap most of the time. She highly recommends this art school for anybody interested in taking serious classes to improve their skills in the fine arts.

Silvy Zhou, ’21, went to the RISD Pre-College Program in Providence, Rhode Island. She noted that the town was very safe and students felt comfortable staying there. It was a six week visual arts program with classes Monday–Friday. Every student takes a drawing foundations class, a design foundations class, and a studio class once a week. Students also took Critical Studies, a two hour class once a week. On top of that, each student chose a major class that met twice a week. Silvy described the program as a “super immersive experience into the art community … and we got a ton of useful information regarding portfolio prep, fine arts majors/applying to art school, job opportunities, etc.”


Ben Chaddha, ’21, attended the Skidmore Jazz Institute in Saratoga Springs, NY. This was his second year doing the program and he said, “I consider it one of my favorite parts of the year.” The program offers high level masterclasses with many famous and well known jazz musicians on the scene in New York City and other major areas around the country. The program is focused on small group combos and emphasizes communication between players. At Skidmore, students are given one lesson per week at the camp with different faculty members. These lessons provide even more insight into the music. Another interesting opportunity Skidmore provides is pro tools recording sessions

At these sessions, Skidmore students can create their own groups and record anything from a traditional combo setting to a group with 4 bass players or 4 alto saxophone players. Another important aspect of Skidmore is its social environment. Ben said, “Going to Skidmore has allowed me to make connections with other like-minded jazz musicians from around the country; furthermore, it has allowed me to understand what a college jazz community might feel like before actually attending college.” He highly recommends the program for anybody passionate about jazz!

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