Category Archives: Summer Camps

MOCA Camp Remix: Part III

Each afternoon during PAA’s Community Hip-Hop Camp at MOCA, PAA Artist Development Coach Ainsley Buckner and artist-educator Allison Bogard united to share and explore the featured exhibit with youIMG_5622th. A traveling retrospective that is presently split between MOCA and the Akron Art Museum, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia highlights work from the founder of proto-punk band DEVO. Mothersbaugh, a northeastern Ohio native, aspired not only to be an artist, but to live a creative life. The exhibit takes viewers through his early sketchbooks, performance art, experimental sound pieces, video, visual art, and more.  Similar to hip-hop artists, Mothersbaugh was and is heavily influenced by current events and the political climate in addition to pop culture. Ainsley and Allison worked with thes students to build connections between hip-hop and Mothersbaugh’s wildly varied artforms. Ainsley and Allison decided to work with printmaking and mixed media to explore these connections. After a group tour then self-guided gallery explorations, students participated in further dialogue with the teaching artists and eventually went to work. Allison demonstrated how to use collage on found postcards and connected that to sampling sounds and beats through hip-hop. Mothersbaugh creates a postcard each day, a practice he has created for himself. Some of his pieces were enlarged and exhibited in the show, signifying how scale impacts the art. Scale is also important in graffiti, thinking about the impact of a small drawing in a notebook versus a large piece on a wall or train car.


A second art project relied on colors and textures to enhance monoprints, which were hand printed onto sticker sheets. Sticker art has been popular with graffiti artists since someone realized that postal service labels are free, readily available, and easy to use. The campers utilized this surface, in addition to pre-cut sticker sheets, and applied their hand-cut stamps, a third art activity influenced by Mothersbaugh’s early work. He owned a rubber stamp and novelty store in Akron as a means of funding his artistic endeavors and was an early innovator in the street art movement, though he seems to have operated outside of any realm of definitive influence.

The campers naturally took to the printmaking process in the Rayburn Workroom and seemed very comfortable making choices about color and texture and employing design decisions that suited their individual creative vision. While thIMG_5711e correlation to hip-hop culture was not entirely linear to all participants, the older students undoubtedly derived meaning from the hands-on activities, whereas some of the young kids simply liked the experience. Gallery dialogue about symbolism, the artist’s response to the 1970 National Guard shootings while he was a student at Kent Sate, and creative expression fueled the teens’ tangible outcomes. Unfortunately the youth participants were all too familiar with campus shootings but it provided a platform for conversation and contextualizing their current experiences alongside historical events. Mothersbaugh’s experiences offered concrete examples of how these struggles are incorporated into not only art, but also into hip-hop music and related disciplines.

To wrap up the second day of camp, Kennedy Blaq presented several campers with scholarship invitations for PAA’s annual RHAPIMG_5654SODY Hip-Hop Summer Arts Camp at PlayhouseSquare. This upcoming camp is an invite-only opportunity. Those campers who demonstrate exemplary vision, drive, motivation, and overall interest are most likely to be selected at each of PAA’s community camps. That’s not to say that there weren’t other excellent participants at the MOCA camp. On the contrary, this group was pleasant, easygoing, kind to one another, and quite creative. All eyes will be on the invitees at this year’s historic 15th annual RHAPSODY Hip-Hop Summer Art Camp, coming August 1-12 at the Idea Center at PlayhouseSquare.

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Bringing Designs to Life at summer camp at Warrensville Heights Library

This summer, as part of PAA’s partnership with the Cuyahoga County Public Library, we are presenting 2D-3D: Bringing Your Designs to Life camps exploring how to take flat, two-dimensional drawings and ideas and transforming them into three-dimensional sculptural pieces.

On day one of each camp, students engage in a project exploring platonic solids. Named after the philosopher Plato, these shapes are three-dimensional convex polyhedrons (like a sphere or a cube). A pyramid, or tetraDSC09958hedron, is an example of a platonic solid. This shape serves as a primary building block for day one of the camp. I spent the most time at Warrensville Heights Library, observing and interacting with about 30 kids ages 10-14. The campers constructed shapes built from triangles that were prepped using laser cutters at think[box] at Case Western Reserve University. After mastering tetrahedron assembly, some campers created new structures from multiple forms, and others took on the presented challenge: build an icosahedron using only triangles and staples. This is a shape with 20 sides and is more difficult than constructing a five-sided shape.


Next, the group was introduced to an inflated sculpture and tasked with designing and building their own inflatable art. Bounce houses or blow up holiday decorations are easily recognizable examples of mass-produced inflatables. In this setting, inflatables are 3-D art made of thin plastic that is taped or fused together then attached to fans. The air that inflates the plastic gives it form. A successful airplane maquette was more complicated than anticipated when creating the plastic components so the artist worked with a group and was able to contribute in a different way. Another student built a cute paper dog but it was too small. She spent some time considering how to scale it up and how to use multiple colors of plastic, and she produced a quirky puppy that held air nicely. Concluding the session, PAA artist-educator Diana Bowman facilitated a reflection, providing the chance for everyone to contribute to a dialogue in response to the days’ activities.



On Thursday, Tinkercad was introduced. It’s a free app that allows anyone to design objects that can then be produced on a 3-D printer. The kids learned how to navigate the program and design plastic 3-D models that the library staff would print using a MakerBot. During an exploratory activity to teach about the printing process, each camper used pigmented glue sticks with low temperature glue guns. They emulated the printing process and formed mini-sculptures using layers of hot glue atop Plexiglas. See the work in action by clicking here. The artist-educators also gave a demonstration so everyone could see the 3-D printer in action and understand how it works.


On the last day when students finished their rotations through Tinkercad and the hot glue station, PAA artist-educator Frances Lee noticed a group of boys growing restless while others continued to work. She presented a new design challenge: each team received some scrap paper and tape, and they had to engineer a structure. The tallest would win. As more kids finished projects, they formed teams and constructed towers. A group of girls won, measuring in at 38.5”. It was a creative and productive week at Warrensville Heights Library and PAA is looking forward to continuing to explore art and technology with kids from many communities this summer.

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MOCA Camp Remix: Part II

In the first part of our series about PAA’s Community Hip-Hop Camp at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), we learned about how youth participants learned about DJing and writing graffiti. Breaking, MCing, and producing beats were also covered in the two- day intensive workshop.

Christian Howard, also known as “Flow,” broke it down into easy steps for the dance portion of the camp and kids were moving in no time. They learned top rocks and worked on smooth transitions and eventually baby frIMG_5701eezes. Clean footwork was emphasized. When Flow called for a cipher (a circle where one person at a time freestyle dances), there was a sudden epidemic of shyness but that didn’t last long! Clearly the most physical of the elements covered during camp, breaking provided a stimulating outlet for the campers as they learned the corkscrew, floor sweep, and several other steps that their instructor weaved into a sequence. Working with Flow, a former PAA student and current captain of the Kent State University Dance Club, the kids were supported and reassured throughout the classes. The Cleveland Foundation Lobby served as the venue for these sessions and each group had a small audience as Museum patrons passed through and paused to take it all in.

When it was time for MCing (writing rhymes and rapping), Stephen Phillips, known as Kennedy Blaq, started by playing beats for the groups, then each student compiled a list of words or feelings that came to mind while hearing the beat. Based on a share-out of the brainstormed words, each group agreed on a theme. The older teens chose life as a topic to write about, and each of the other groups selected summer and personal interests, respectively.

The instructor then talked through instrumental beat options with each group. For example, he asked if a camper was thinking about a more upbeat feel and if they’d like to include drums or violins, etc. When it was time to compose rhymes to match their beat, the majority of the kids dove right in but for those who struggled to begin, they were encouraged to start with writing relevant words then finding a rhyming word. By the second day, everyone had enough written that they could share their ideas, particularly the oldest group. The teens were writing very quickly and some had a whole page of rhymes! This group participated in a cipher where they were given a topic and each person freestyle-rhymed then passed the mic to the next person.

During beatmaking in the afternoon, each group went upstairs to the Cahoon Lounge IMG_5606where they first visited the Orchestrians in the gallery. Built by Mark Mothersbaugh, these instruments are comprised of found objects and are programmed using Arduinos and run on a loop. The sounds projected by the instrumental sculptures are essentially a series of beats or rhythms.  Campers viewed some Rhythm Roulette clips to understand how beats are made. Sampling pre-existing sounds then integrating rhythms from additional instruments, producers sample disparate sounds that are pieced together in a cohesive and dynamic way, creating beats. You could sense the synapses sparking as the teens watched videos of producers tasked with developing beats from three random records, a laptop, a mixer, and a keyboard. It was televised inspiration. iPads outfitted with Garage Band allowed each participant to experiment with layering sounds and Kennedy Blaq was there to guide each person along as they investigated the medium.

After the music and movement sessions, the kids dedicated the majority of each afternoon to hands-on art. Read about it in our next installment of MOCA Camp Remix.

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MOCA Camp Remix: Part I

At the end of June, a group of eager kids ages 11-17 leapt into Progressive Arts Alliance’s immersive two-day hip-hop camp at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA). Centering on the elements of hip-hop, the campers learned the basics of DJing, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti. They also worked on making beats and learned about and made art in response to the featured exhibit at MOCA, Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, located in the museum’s Mueller Family Gallery.

Divided into several groups by age, students participated in three sessions each morning, followed by lunch and three afternoon classes. PAA instructor Connor Musarra, a PAA All-Star who first learned to DJ through hip-hop camp years ago, fostered a natural rapport with the kids and encouraged them to explore several techniques on the turntables as he guided them through progressively more complex sounds including the stab and reverse stab scratch, combining stab scratches to create a “military scratch,” to back spinning, transformer scratching, and more. By allowing the campers to explore and discover sounds, they built confidence and curiosity to investigatethe art form known as turntablism. The teen group responded especially well and answered Connor’s on-the-spot assignments (utilize three techniques, keep it for 16 beats etc.) by supporting each other and rising to the challenge each time. This portion of the workshops took place daily in the Gund Commons on the Museum’s ground floor, an intentionally dark and quiet area perfect for the medium.

IMG_5670 IMG_5665

Educator and graffiti artist Poke took the students through a brief history of writing graffiti through excerpts of the seminal film, Style Wars, made in 1983 (ancient history if you ask the kids). Poke began instruction by drawing his name in several types of letters, emphasizing the importance of scale, style, placement, and color. Then, he showed each group how to draw letters in three-dimensional graffiti style, building to draw their whole name. The older students generally had some experience drawing with this approach, but many of the younger participants were learning completely new information. On the last day, we asked every student to share the most impactful thing they learned, and many of the younger kids noted graffiti as something that will stick with them long after the end of camp. Piquing their interest in not only art but in writing too, graffiti is a powerful tool for education and communication.

Stay tuned for the second installment of the MOCA Camp Remix series.

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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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