Helping Kids Find—and Lose—Themselves this Summer

While many traditional summer activities may not be available this year, the Cordovan Art School is open, and ready to help kids escape the heat, lose themselves in all kinds of creative endeavors, and discover genius they didn’t know they had. 

Summer Camps

Camps are going on now, and there are weekly half- and full-day sessions still available to start until August 17. Located in Georgetown behind the Art Center at 816 S. Main St., classes are structured for students as young as five years old, using combinations of traditional painting and drawing techniques. 

Artist and owner John Howell adds there are camps at all of his six studios to accommodate families who perhaps live in Georgetown but work elsewhere in the Austin metro area, so they can drop-off and pick up around a workday schedule. 

John Howell and Tejini (12) at last year’s art show.

About Cordovan

John always wanted to be an artist and received his degree in illustration. After he graduated and began working, he quickly realized an artist’s life can be lonely and he really wanted to be with people. Soon after, he began teaching classes, which grew into a full-time studio. 

He came to Texas to pursue a number of creative ventures, including architecture and real estate. “When the real estate market crashed, I went back to my art roots, found there was a need for this kind of passion and education, and opened my first studio in Round Rock in 2009. 

When he heard the Georgetown Art Center was looking to grow their classroom space, a great partnership was born. “We love being downtown on the Square. There is a lot of foot traffic, and the city was eager to promote art on the Square. Best of all, we have a splash pad right outside our door. It is a win-win because there are great volunteers at the center, so someone is always here to share information about the school. Everyone pitches in and does the jobs that need to be done; it’s just what we do.”  

John says Cordovan is about creative people. “Everyone is creative; we just think and learn differently. Some people are creative lawyers and compose great arguments. We just need to remind ourselves, in this age of standardization, creativity is critical for problem solving. It’s just a bonus that stretching those muscles can also bring joy to your day.” 

Case in point, Cordovan founded the Chalk Walk in Round Rock, which has become Round Rock’s version of a Poppyfest. “I started with one person in 2010, and it has grown to the point that the city took over—last year we had 45,000 visitors. There is so much to do, contests, and an amazing amount of artwork. “ (Scheduled for October 2020)

But his first love is still teaching. He has learned, by combining instructional skills with personal experiences, that while children want their artwork to be perfect, they still want it to be their own. Teachers assist in ways that help them achieve that dual goal; “We simply look for moments of growth and celebrate them.” 

Getting Creative

Animé art class for teens.

All of the studios teach painting and drawing techniques in many combinations of media; watercolors, acrylics, pen and pencil, and graphite. The Round Rock and Austin locations also provide classes in 3-D rendering. 

Teachers in the 10-and-under classes show students how its done with step-by-step instruction on technique. “Kids love to ad-lib,” John says. “At a certain age, they begin to make decisions on their own and teachers work person-to-person, which helps them recognize a student’s learning style. Instruction is adapted for those who are ready to be original; we pivot from things like stroke and technique to advanced topics like how light works.” 

John says art is for every child, and he loves to hear stories of the impressions his classes leave. “Art is a wonderful activity for summer enrichment, and we have parents of special needs students with heartwarming stories of impact and focus. I love being able to be part of those discoveries. The really fun part is seeing the joy of the parents when the child shows so much pride in his or her work.” 

When you Go

Right now, Cordovan is following guidelines for lower capacity and health procedures, but there are openings in all classes. 

After summer camp, classes are held weekly in the evenings, and all students are invited to participate in annual art shows. There are plenty of classes for parents as well, including the latest “Bob Ross” painting classes, which are sometimes available via Zoom.

Visit for details. 

In case you were wondering… “Cordovan” is this rich shade of burgundy, and also considered a dark shade of rose. It takes its name from the city of Córdoba, Spain, where the production of cordovan leather was first practiced in the seventh century.

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