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About the Project

About the Author 

Beginning in the early 1860s, many U.S. children have spent their summers making friendship bracelets, swimming in lakes, and singing songs around a campfire at summer camp. It would be nearly impossible to picture the typical American summer camp without arts and crafts because these activities have been and continue to be a fundamental component of these spaces. But what are they and why are they included in camps? How did these programs begin and evolve? Who supported them and why? Did these activities have any educational qualities or were they simply an enjoyable pastime for campers?


When I began my search to answer these questions, I came up short...very short. As it stands, there is minimal historical research on the longstanding and rich connected history of art education and summer camp arts and crafts. To fill this gap, I created this website which includes an interactive timeline of the history of arts and crafts in U.S. summer camps from 1870-1999, a detailed graphic illustrating the progression of materials and activities, and relevant ephemera.


It is my hope that this information will provide a deeper understanding of the educational qualities of summer camp arts and crafts programming in summer camps, inspire the preservation of these activities, and contribute to quality art education for youth at summer camps for years to come.


To read the entire report, Beyond Tie Dye T-shirts and Friendship Bracelets: A History of Art Education in U.S. Summer Camp Arts and Crafts, click here

Alice Brandenburg is an artist, educator, and camp person. This website is part of her M.A. capstone research project while studying art education at the University of Texas in Austin, TX. The summers she spent teaching arts and crafts at 4-H Memorial Camp in Monticello, IL were the most meaningful and important experiences of her life and inspired this work.  

A word from the author: 


Millions of people have been to summer camps, and these institutions have become integral to our society for centuries. Arts and crafts activities are essential to these spaces. At the end of many summers, campers return home with a hodgepodge of creations that become permanent pieces in their family’s at-home gallery, often with a story or memory. Despite decades of these fond memories, this influential form of art education is often overlooked and severely undocumented. This is where my curiosity stemmed, and my research began.

Although I would like to claim my experience is unique, this euphoric feeling derived from summer camp is universal among those affectionately referred to as “camp people.” The more camp people I meet, the more this is proven true. Regardless of region, organization, or even lifetime, each person who attended or worked at a summer camp has a beautiful, profound story. I am fascinated by this unspoken bond, bridging generations and spanning time, and curious about its rich legacy.


I could not have completed this work without the countless educators who’ve come before and paved the way for summer camp arts and crafts. Or for the hundreds of thousands of art educators who’ve shaped this field for the last 150 years, allowing this research to be possible. Or for the millions of young people who’ve spent their summers in camps nationwide for centuries. It’s thanks to all of these individuals that made this research possible.


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4-H Memorial Camp, Monticello, IL

2018 & 2019

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