Painting smiles: Rifle artist’s summer camp puts children and creativity first |

Painting smiles: Rifle artist’s summer camp puts children and creativity first

Eight-year-old Chris Lopez makes a paper mache bug while at Liz Waters' art camp in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Camp programming is a lot like cooking, Liz Waters said — the more you do it, the better you get at it. In her 20 years of teaching art classes everywhere from Aspen to Meeker, Waters said her camp recipe is one that keeps students coming back year after year.

“My whole dedication in the summer is to the program, and that’s it. That’s where my attention is. … What’s really important to me is that the kids develop a sense of self, and that they learn techniques. They expose themselves to kids of other ages and other schools, and they develop their own community,” Waters said.

Hanna Rather is a previous student of Waters’ from when she taught at Aspen High School, and she taught art alongside her about two years ago. Now, Rather’s daughter Adi is one of the campers learning various art techniques on a weekly basis in the summer camp.

“Liz thoroughly enjoys what she does, and the energy that children provide, she makes every day an adventure. The art projects she develops with the children over the week are immersive, and whatever the topic of the week is, she brings them outdoors to explore what they are creating, so they can best reflect it in their work,” Rather said. “My children have attended her camps and have also walked away with friendships they wouldn’t have otherwise made in school. Liz’s art camps are a gift to the community and our children.”

Each week of Waters’ camp has a different theme. This past week was It’s A Bug’s Life, and a handful of other ones are Birds of a Feather, Cave Art and Art Around Town. She has students from age 5 to 13 and said the benefit of such a wide range is how the older students get to step into leadership positions and help the younger ones on their projects.

“Here’s what works for me: The older kids help the younger kids, and that gives them a sense of ownership,” Waters said.

Another aspect of her camp recipe that Waters takes pride in is hiring past students to help her lead day-to-day activities. John Leybourne, age 12, is her junior camp assistant this year and goes in to work with other campers twice a week. He said participating in Waters’ camp meant there was something unique in their day-to-day activities and allowed him to learn about more than just art.

“There is never a dull or boring moment with her teaching art. You can learn so much from her,” Leybourne said. “If you love art and you want to learn more about art and the many different types of art, go to her summer classes.”

Arts Camp will run through the week of Aug. 9-13 at the old Glenwood Arts Center, 601 Sixth St. Parents can sign their children up through the Glenwood Recreation Center website, where 40 hour camp weeks are $325. Waters said if individuals go through the Glenwood Arts Council, there’s the option to apply to scholarships that can help aid in the cost of camp.

“We didn’t have this opportunity where I was when I was growing up. … My art camp is weird, because I didn’t think it would be like this, but this is a blast for me as well. It’s really to make the children’s souls smile, give them a time when they can create and play and live,” Waters said.

Six-year-old Eva Zancanella makes a paper mache bug while at Liz Waters' art camp in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Rather added that Waters’ inclusion of outdoor experiences with the camp keeps a good balance of indoor and outdoor activities, and helps inspire the campers to tie in the natural world to their art pieces. At 3:30 p.m. every Friday of camp there’s an art show open for the community to attend where campers get to display the work they’ve created over the past week.

“I really believe art is a great way to help kids grow in a fun way,” Waters said. “I’m telling you, I love art, I always loved art. I knew that I was going to be in the art world when I was their age. … It gives me great joy.”

Reporter Jessica Peterson can be reached at 970-279-3462 or

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