Outside the Lines

Outside the LinesAbrakadoodle Art Program Brings Out the Talent in the Youngest Artisans By Wendy O. Dixon and Jennifer Walker-Journey

The walls are splattered with rainbow-colored paint — the accidental result of budding artists enjoying their studio at Camp WaterColor. The facility is one of the many sites of Abrakadoodle, a nationwide arts education program that offers art classes, art camps and art parties for children ages 20 months to 12 years old. Kid-friendly art supplies and furniture facilitate the creativity in youngsters.

Abrakadoodle instructor Kim McGuire tells the students that the day’s theme is “Going Green.” Empty water bottles, paper towel rolls, fabric swatches and tissue paper scraps are used as supplies for the theme.

Students are given a blank canvas of white paper and asked to use the recyclable materials to create their original artwork.

Sarah, 6, dips the bottom of the water bottle in red paint and dabs it on her canvas, creating a cluster of cheerful flower petals. She dips the cap into yellow paint and then dots the center of the petals to reveal the stigma, or center of the flower. Sarah’s work eventually reveals a colorful bouquet of flowers — all made from recycled materials.

The local Abrakadoodle program had its beginning with former Destin Elementary School teacher Erin Bakker, who was eager to share her love of art with young students. She started an after-school art program, and it wasn’t long before word got out and Bakker began adding more and more classes. They became so popular that Bakker began researching the idea of bringing regular art programs for children to more students in the Florida Panhandle. She bought the Abrakadoodle franchise in February 2008.

“There was a lack of emphasis of child art education in the area,” she says. “I wanted to fill that void.”

The program is essentially an art education curriculum developed by artists and educators exclusively for its franchisees. Those who own a franchise are trained to help children develop valuable creativity skills through art classes, camps and parties.

Classes are ongoing and geared to specific age groups, such as Twoosy Doodlers for children ages 20 to 36 months, Mini Doodlers for children ages 3 to kindergarten, and Doodlers for children in first through sixth grade. Fees range from $12 to $15 per class and focus on specific activities, such as digital photography (Digital Doodles), drawing shapes (Doodle Drawing), painting on canvas (Kids on Canvas), and building a portfolio of different artwork (Portfolio Kids).

Kris Moran’s daughter Anna has taken several classes and is a huge fan of Abrakadoodle.

“My daughter loves art,” Moran says. She was so impressed with the program that she asked Bakker to do an Abrakadoodle Halloween party. Bakker had children make and decorate witches’ hats and magic pumpkins. The event was such a success that Moran arranged an Abrakadoodle party for Anna’s seventh birthday. Bakker brought jumbo cupcakes and taught the group how to decorate them.

Bakker’s Abrakadoodle offers programs from Panama City to Pensacola. After just one year, her business is booming. She has 13 certified teachers or artists working with her, and that number will likely keep growing. She recently received the honor of the fastest growing Abrakadoodle franchise in the nation.

“I think there’s a lot of value to teaching outside of the box, and that’s what we do in Abrakadoodle,” Bakker says. “We’re not just teaching art, we’re teaching across the curriculum. We’re teaching science and math and history and social studies inside all of our art projects. So they’re really walking out with a lot more than a beautiful product and a great experience.

“They’re really walking out with some valuable knowledge.”