Category Archives: Summer Camps

Reflections: 14 years of Hip-Hop Camp

A student-designed "F" in graffiti style that was rendered in 3D and printed using a 3D printer at this year's RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.

A student-designed “F” in graffiti style that was rendered in 3D and printed using a 3D printer at this year’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.

By: Santina Protopapa, PAA Founder and Executive Director

This month, after completing the 14th annual installment of our annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp, I’ve been reflecting on our experience over the last 14 years using hip-hop to teach in and through the arts.  As the founder of the program (and PAA), I’m humbled by the growth trajectory the camp has undergone.

As I’ve been reflecting on what has made the camp a success over the years, I’ve realized that three key themes continue to resonate from year to year. These themes include:

Since the first day of camp in August 2002, our commitment to innovation has been a key driver in our work. We have always been insistent on using the turntable as a modern electronic percussion instrument. We have accomplished this by teaching the skills that DJs and turntablists have been innovating since DJ Kool Herc first introduced the world to what would be known as hip-hop in the Bronx in 1973. This year, in addition to continuing our focus on DJing innovation, we also added additional technology innovation tools to our camp curriculum. During our graffiti classes, students learned how to render their graffiti designs into three-dimensional digital files that were then fabricated on a 3D printer. Students also learned how to render their designs and fabricate their work using as laser cuter. Integrating these rapid prototyping tools into our camp gave students an additional glimpse into how the skills they learn at hip-hop camp can be applied in other contexts.

I still vividly remember so many amazing instances when perseverance paid off for our campers.  I’ll never forget when Robert finally got his head slide he had been working on in 2005.  Or in 2013 when Emanuwel described how a new dance move was “really, really hard” and then told me and the rest of the campers, “I can’t wait to keep trying it again tomorrow until I finally learn it.” And there are also countless stories of practicing at home (outside of camp time) so that no momentum was lost in the pursuit of mastery. As an arts educator, perseverance is one of the key skills I hope our students take from their arts education experience. Hip-Hop camp has been the perfect outlet for dozens of students to understand the value of perseverance.

Understanding the context of hip-hop’s beginnings and the development of its artistic art forms has been an important part of the camp since day one. My work in curating the camp’s artistic and educational objectives has always included making sure students understand the key innovators in each of hip-hop’s art forms (DJing, MCing, dance, and graffiti) and whenever possible, giving students the opportunity to meet one of the innovators. We’ve been so fortunate over the last few years to have DJ Rob Swift, one of the key innovators in the art of turntablism, join us as a resident instructor. This year, we spent time allowing students to develop an understanding of the mechanics of the craft and processes that each of our instructors have developed as professional artists. These sessions featured our instructors in a live interview format sharing work samples and discussing their work and artistic philosophy. Following these interview sessions, students shared amazing feedback. Students noted how much they enjoyed learning how our MC instructor AtLas’ uses personal stories from her life in her songs and how our graffiti instructor Keny Medina translates his graffiti skills into his college studies in architecture. Understanding context gave our students a glimpse into the life of artists both young (like them) and old. I loved hearing one student explain, “I was so surprised to learn the history of DJing. I had no idea all that went into it.”

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Guest Blog Post: PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp Empowered Our Daughter to Dream Big

Guest Bloggers Ken Espenschied and Regina Jolly Espenschied of Olmsted Township with their daughter Liz following last year’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp concert performance.

By Regina Jolly Espenschied and Ken Espenschied

Like most parents, we try to find fun and intellectually stimulating summer activities for our kids. Over the years our daughter Liz has attended a variety of camps including: chess camp, science camp, string camp, and skating camp.

PAA’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp stands out among the rest. The combination of technology, visual art, music, and dance results in an exciting multi-faceted camp that encourages students to challenge themselves as individuals, helps them step out of their comfort zones, and keeps them focused as a team to create a performance experience to share with the Greater Cleveland community, all while having fun.

The camp faculty are incredible teachers who are world-class artists. They have the passion, energy, and expertise to teach young adults in a technical, yet entertaining and engaging way. The faculty consistently encourage the students to keep a strong work ethic, maintain a growth mind-set, and make a difference in the world.

We often have to pry information from our daughter about her camp activities. Hip-Hop Camp was different. Each day Liz came home excited and shared with us her activities: a visit to MOCA or think[box], new dance moves she tried to perfect, or even Skype sessions with Darryl McDaniels from Run-D.M.C. and break dancer Storm (all the way from Germany).

Attending Hip-Hop Camp was a unique and meaningful experience for our daughter. The welcoming environment, honest feedback, and ability to work in small groups with seasoned professionals empowered her to dream big and feel that she can achieve any goal that she sets.

Get the latest news about this year’s RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp by signing up for our mailing list here.


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Celebrating 13 years of Hip-Hop Camp

This year marked the 13th year of our annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.  The video above shares insights into the camp experience from this year’s instructors: DJ Rob Swift, MC Atlas’, B-Boy Tony Fresh, and Gloe.

Special thanks to the Community Engagement and Education department at PlayhouseSquare for continuing to partner with us and providing space at the Idea Center to host the camp.

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Having Fun with Stop-Motion Animation

We’re pleased to continue our partnership with the Cuyahoga County Library system this summer.  As part of our partnership we are facilitating week-long Media Arts Camps in which students are exploring various ways to be creative through different forms of media, including stop-motion animation.  To see some of the stop-motion videos that are being created, like the one above, click here.

Our Media Arts Camps are taking place at the following branches of the Cuyahoga County Library system this summer: Middleburg Hts., Fairview, Independence, and Brook Park.

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Summertime at PAA!

Ten Years of Progressive Arts Alliance

Summertime at PAA!

Here at Progressive Arts Alliance, we’ve not only been enjoying
Cleveland’s hot summer weather, but we’ve also been enjoying
all of the dynamic arts learning experiences we’ve been able to
provide throughout Northeast Ohio.
Since June, we’ve been giving students of all ages the opportunity
to learn in and through the arts with programs ranging from
video production to printmaking to hip-hop.
Read below for a recap of all the exciting things that have been
going on this summer and be sure to click the links to some of our
students’ work samples!
This month we’re kicking off our 10th anniversary celebration with
our 10th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.
We hope you’ll join us over the coming year as we celebrate
10 years of service to our community.
Santina Protopapa
Executive Director

RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp
PAA Allstars

We’re pleased to be presenting the 10th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop
Summer Arts Camp this year at the Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare.
Click here to see the camp’s recent feature on WKYC TV Channel 3 with
Robin Swoboda. We hope you’ll
join us for our students’ exciting
show this Friday, August 12 at 3 pm at the Idea Center
that will showcase the music, dance, and visual art they’ve been working
on over the past two weeks.

Media Arts Camps

PAA was pleased to continue our work in partnership with the
Cuyahoga County Public Library system. We presented our
Media Arts Camps to students at the BrookPark, Olmsted Falls,
Parma Hts., Garfield Hts., and Strongsville library branches.
During our Media Arts Camps led by PAA
Artist-Educators Lauren Sammon and Josh Reith,
students learned how to make their own stop motion
animation videos, designed their own web sites, and created
soundtracks for their videos and web sites.
We enjoyed seeing all of the imagination and innovation
our students brought to each of these programs.
Click on the below thumbnails to visit students’ websites
view their animations:

Blob Boy AnimationTornado AnimationFlower AnimationPurple Cow Animation










Printmaking and Mural Design Camp at Judson 

Slideshow of Mural Design and Printmaking at Judson




Progressive Arts Alliance presented an intergenerational printmaking
and mural design program which gave older adults from Judson at
University Circle the dynamic opportunity to learn about printmaking
and the processes of designing a mural over the course of one week
while working with middle school students from Open Doors Academy.
Printmaking activities were led by PAA Artist-Educator Jen Craun and
mural-making activities were led by Meri Ruble.Participants in the
program each produced an edition of prints and as a collaborative team
completed an exciting mural about our community.

Video Production Camps
Video Production Camp








In addition to our Media Arts Camps at Cuyahoga County Public Library
branches, PAA also presented Video Production Camps at the Fairview
Park, Brooklyn, and Brecksville branches. Led by PAA Artist-Educators
Lisa Manzari and Carla Carter, students at our Video Production Camps
learned all phases of the production process and applied what they
learned by producing different types of persuasive videos.
The videos the students produced were informative and creative,
humorous and well edited!

Musical Soundscapes
Audio Recording Workshops
Musical Soundscapes






Our Musical Soundscapes Audio Recording Workshops visited all 28 branches
of the Cuyahoga County Public Library and were led by
PAA Artist-Educatorand professional audio engineer Doc Harrill with
help from our summer intern Stephen Phillips. Each session allowed
students to have the special opportunity to explore musical styles
from throughout the world through engaging in the process of
“sampling” audio clips. Students then produced
their own original audio recordings using recording and sampling
software on PAA’s Apple laptops. Click the graphic above to hear
some of the recordings produced during our Soundscapes workshops.

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Summer 2010 in Review: 9th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp

Summer Camp Like No Other

Above: Hip-Hop Camp Final Performance. Photo by Chris Ramsay.

By Laura Einsel

“Who are we? Who are we? Hip-Hop!” sang students at the final performance of Progressive Arts Alliance’s (PAA) 9th Annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp.  In this two-week camp, a diverse group of 40 students from throughout the greater Cleveland area came together at PlayhouseSquare’s Idea Center to learn the four founding elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breaking, and graffiti art.Students were lead by a talented team of top hip-hop artists and educators, to master their skills in all four art forms.  Campers also received mentoring from the camp’s counselors, high school and college students who had attended the camp in previous years.

Connor Musarra, who has been attending camp since the age of 12, said he chose to become a counselor because, “I wanted the chance to change these kids’ lives just like it [Hip-Hop Camp] did for me.” In addition to learning new skills, students also learned the history of hip-hop and how it has grown into a global cultural expression. Hip-hop was started by a relatively small group of youth in the South Bronx in the 1970s “as a means to give them a creative voice and uplift them out of a disadvantaged environment,” explains Executive Director and founder of PAA, Santina Protopapa, who taught hip-hop history lessons at camp.

Santina hopes students at the camp come away with an understanding that “hip-hop can be a positive form of creative self-expression” and that “there is another side to the sometimes negative world of rap music they are often exposed to.”

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Summer 2010 in Review: Hip-Hop Camp

Open Doors Students Gain Confidence Through Hip-Hop  Camp

Above: DeeJay Doc guides students in the turntable lab at Harkness Chapel.

By Laura Einsel

“Be peaceful,” “Stay in school,” and “You can change the world” were just a few of the lyrics written by Open Doors Academy students at PAA’s  RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp held at Case Western Reserve University’s Harkness Chapel this August.PAA has worked with Open Doors over the past few years providing workshops during after-school programming. This year, Open Doors received a grant that expanded their program offerings through the summer.  For the first time, PAA was able to offer its RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp to Open Doors students.

“Our students absolutely loved this camp! Every morning when I picked them up to take them to the camp they were overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation,” said Open Doors Counselor, Jeff Harrell. Students, in this two-week camp, learned all four elements of hip-hop, including breaking, MCing, DJing, and graffiti art.  Hands-on workshop activities included writing rhymes, using the turntable as a musical instrument, practicing breaking moves, and creating graffiti hats and canvases. Continue reading

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Summer 2010 in Review: Printmaking

“X” marks the spot on Personal Treasure Maps

Above: Jen Craun and students at the Parma South library show off their Personal Treasure Maps.

By Matt Skitzki

Actually, not just one “X”, but five “X”s mark Jay Kincaid’s Personal Treasure Map.  As the 12 year old explains, only he knows which “X” the treasure is buried under.  The rest are fakes that throw other plunderers off track.  His treasure chest holds a whopping one million dollars, plus a whole bunch of tennis balls.  I might go after it myself, if it weren’t for those tricky false “X”s.

Jay was one of many students who participated in Progressive Arts Alliance’s Personal Treasure Map workshops at Cuyahoga County Public Library branches this summer.  There were a total of 27 workshops at branches around the region.  The workshops were a part of the library’s summer reading theme that include pirates, water, and treasures.Students, age 11-18, used printmaking techniques and a printing press to make their Personal Treasure Maps.  First they created their images on plastic plates using ink and brush, and then transferred the image to paper with a printing press.  The press basically works like a big steamroller.  Next, they ripped and stained the edges of their maps to give them an aged look.  Finally, they stamped their maps with personalized letters, numbers, and symbols to create words and trails to follow to find the treasure.  The result is a polished, “official” Personal Treasure Map.Students had to be a careful – a printing press can “break your bones,” warned PAA Artist-Educator Jen Craun, who facilitated the workshops.  Craun studied printmaking at Kent State University where she earned a Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking.  She enjoys printmaking because it is “technically difficult and challenging” and, as a bonus health benefit, the heavy machines “build muscles.”  The students enjoy printmaking too.  The majority of students that were there were printmaking for the first time, and they “enjoyed the freedom of the open ended exploration with the media and the professional techniques of operating professional equipment and screen printing.”

Craun’s assistant, Mary Winkleman, a student at the Cleveland Institute of Art, agreed that students who had never done printmaking before “really enjoyed it.”

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Summer 2010 in Review: Social Campaigns

George Washington Carver Students Find Voice Learning Media Arts

By Laura Einsel

While many middle schoolers in Cleveland took off for the summer, a select group of 6th- 8th grade students from George Washington Carver School started off their summer with a serious full-time job in marketing at Progressive Arts Alliance’s Media Arts Camp – Creating Social Campaigns. Their assignment: to identify a problem in their community and design a  media campaign to solve it.

In this three-week intensive camp, held at PAA’s home building, the youth worked in four professional production teams creating websites, videos, photos, posters and logos for their campaign. They even screen printed designs onto their very own team t-shirts.  Mentored by local high school students and taught by a team of talented professionals, students learned technology skills and marketing concepts necessary for success in the media arts field.

The “Clean the Streets” crew, Jason Foster, Nashelle Rembert, Chris Simmons, and Tyrese Stubbs chose littering as the issue they wanted to address.Rembert explained that there are “too many kids littering and they don’t realize the impact it’s having on our neighborhood.”

The team’s anti-littering campaign included an extremely catchy tagline “Listen To Our Plan, Throw It In The Can,” a video whose main character was a talking water bottle, and photos of litter the students found on the streets.  Their poster composed of a trash can icon filled with colorful crumpled trash balls, was described as “classy” by ad execs at Wyse Advertising.  Once ad exec said he would proudly hang the poster in his office.

Above: Students gathered in the PlayhouseSquare neighborhood to take photos at various downtown Cleveland locations.  The photos were used in their campaigns.

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Summer 2010 in Review: Media Arts Camps

Students create, compose, and design at Media Arts Camps

Photo by Nathan Destro

By Matt Skitzki

Progressive Arts Alliance (PAA) was pleased to return to the Cuyahoga County Public Library system to offer Media Arts Summer Camps at the library’s Brooklyn, Garfield Heights, Independence, and Bay Village branches.  Students at each Media Arts Camp were encouraged to be creative while learning about electronic music composition, stop-motion animation, and website design. They took that encouragement to heart.

In one stop-motion sequence, a herd of dinosaurs appears to foil a bank robbery.  The perpetrator?  An octopus.  Hannah Montana was there, too.

In another, a fire-breathing dragon battles a ninja.  The ninja wins, but only with the help of an unsuspecting passing motorist.

PAA Artist-Educator Neil Chastain provided some of the encouragement.  A Cleveland-based percussionist, DJ, and music educator, Chastain showed students how to use electronic music composition software called Garage Band at the camp.

The students responded well to Chastain, according to Nathan Destro, who coordinated and taught website design and animation at the camp.  “They enjoyed themselves,” said Destro, adding, “they were learning while having fun.  It’s the best of both worlds.” Continue reading

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