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Story & Studio encourages Fort Collins kids’ artistic expression

It is never too early to inspire children to express themselves artistically and creatively. Fort Collins businesses and Colorado State University are working to bring events to the public that inspire the youth’s imagination.

Claire Chien, an assistant art education professor, manages “Story & Studio, ” an interactive studio encouraging children and other participants to connect their own creations with the collection in the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art. Chien managed a special edition of the activity for the University Center of the Art’s 10th anniversary celebration this past week.


 “It’s a great opportunity to expose my kids to all different mediums and types of art,” said Fort Collins resident Kathrine McQueen, who brought her children to participate in Story & Studio and other activities on Sunday. “My oldest son is really into acting, so being able to see the acting rehearsals (at the UCA) was amazing.”

Story & Studio features three different activities where children and participants arrive at a station and are met with a photo of a piece in the Gregory Allicar collection, and a myriad of artistic supplies. Participants are asked to go into the museum to find the pieces depicted in the photographs and think about the artist’s inspiration behind the piece. 

“When I designed these activities, our purpose was not to just make crafts, but to explore how the meanings can come in with the artworks,” Chien said. “These (works of art) are all connected with the artists daily life experiences, we wanted to let children and participants to put their insights, their own personal experiences with their own artworks.”

The activities include a station where the participants find items such as a weaving or a canoe paddle in the museum, and to consider some of the personal connection the artists made with their art. Upon returning to the studio, there are three different stations corresponding to a certain artwork found in the museum.

At the special UCA edition of the activity, children had the choice of using colored pencils, oil pastels and watercolors to design their own treasure chest. They were asked to draw or write something special to put inside it, and to craft the chest around it, which could be cut out and folded. 

The next Story and Studio will be Oct. 3 at the Gregory Allicar Museum of Art.

Another station corresponded to a canoe paddle in the museum and gave the participants their own paddle to design and create, asking them to explore the questions of artistic choices and the artistic process of expression.

The third station was a yarn weaving activity inspired by some pieces of textile art in the museum. This flow of stations encouraged the participants to consider and work with many different mediums of creative and artistic expression. That idea is also reflected and represented in the museum itself, reminding them that art and expression can come from many different places and ideas.

“They can be trained to critically think about whats happening in their own life,” Chien said. “Through our activities you analyze, you observe, you think about why the artist made this decision. Then when you create your own artworks, you think about ‘why am I choosing this color, how does this connect with me?’ When they grow up, you’re making similar decisions.”

The UCA opened in 2008 and operates as a world-class facility supporting art, theater, music and dance students. Its doors are open for many free activities to the public, encouraging the community to support not only art, but also CSU students.


“You can teach so many different things through the arts,” Chien said. “With theater, you can gain empathy for different people and cultures, you can apply mathematics to music. So for children to be exposed to that from a young age is important, and the (public) schools are doing their best, but its also great to supplement that with college caliber experiences.”

Ryan Lueck can be reached at and @ryaneluck. 

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