When Amy Sorensen moved her family from Utah to Ely years back, she felt bad that her children would miss out on the annual two-week art festival her previous home city provided. After failing to find a suitable alternative in town, she partnered with several other women to form their own Children’s Art Festival in 2010. Five years later, Sorensen and the myriad of other parents and teacher involved instruct over 250 kids in a variety of classes during the week long program held at the White Pine High School.
For Sorensen, who has served as the festival’s director every year since it started, it has been a challenging and rewarding experience to see the number of kids attending each year grow and to try and provide more classes and activities to engage them in.
“There’s a moment with every art festival that I’m really proud of. It’s that moment of kids making art, making music, doing other things and I think this is why we spend hours and hours beforehand planning, because the kids have such a good time. It is a really rewarding experience,” Sorensen said.
The week long festival offers over 50 different courses that expand beyond art into theater, crafts and even robot building. According to Sorensen, the variety of classes all try to offer something “interesting” for the kids to do. The classes offer simplistic art instruction for kids still in elementary school to more complicated and advanced activities for seventh and eighth graders.
“This year we are offering a welding class taught by welders from the mine for the seventh and eighth graders and the kids have been having a blast with that. Our goal is to have classes that get progressively harder to cater to the kids as they grow and as their attention span grows too,” she continued.
The director thanked the White Pine County School District for helping the festival grow over the past five years. The first year’s festival, which hosted close to 100
kids, quickly outgrew the space provided by the David E. Norman Elementary School. To accommodate the popular event, the school district allowed the organizers to host it from then on at the high school.
“The school district has been very helpful and very happy working with us,” Sorensen said.
The festival brought with it guest water color artist Jill Cook this year to help teach kids about how to paint using watercolors. Cook, who said that her grandparents used to live in Ely, said that she was impressed with the quality of the classes put on at the event.
“This is a world-class art festival, which is so cool to see,” Cook said.
The artist said that it was encouraging to see so many young people in her classes really taking an interest in the arts.
“I love this town. The people here have really cultivated an interest in the arts. The only thing I love more than making artwork is teaching, so I’m very grateful the festival invited me to participate,” Cook said.
The Children’s Art Festival will conclude Friday with a free, open to the public, exhibition showcasing all the artwork and performances the kids learned over the week. The exhibition will begin at 6 p.m. at White Pine High School.