Meredith Meer

I first met Meredith Meer when she was still in high school. Her mom is the executive director of the preschool two of my children attended in Silver Spring, and Meredith would often sing at the annual fundraising gala. While we didn’t know each other, her mom would rave about her artistic daughter headed off to (and then attending) New York University. Seven years after I first met her, Meredith has returned to her hometown and is running Kaleidoscope Kids, an arts enrichment program for school-aged kids. She runs after-school and weekend arts programs and is planning a summer of arts camp for 1st through 5th graders.

I love that Kaleidoscope Kids’ programs are themed, and that for the after-school programs, you can drop in week to week.

As for the summer program, it’s only $265 a week for a 9AM-1PM session of themed art and play. Here’s the sample schedule:
9:00 – 9:30: Sketchbook Activity 1 / Arrivals
9:30 – 11:00: Art Session 1
11:00 – 12:00: Lunch / Outside Play
12: 00 – 1: 00: Art Session 2
1:00 – 3:30: Extended Day
*Extended Day until 3:30 pm is available upon request for an additional fee of $25 per day.

I was curious about what would make a talented young artist in New York City decide to concentrate on teaching young kids instead of partying it up “Girls”-style in NYC. Here’s more about what makes Meredith such a special DC-area resident with a heart for teaching children about art.

1. Tell us about yourself and growing up in the area. Were you involved in the arts locally?

When I was in high school, I was juggling a lot of interests, including art and music.  I spent a lot of my time as a traveling musician with the School of Rock All Stars, and I also attended the Visual Arts Center program at Einstein High School. I was encouraged by my parents to seek any artistic outlets that were available, and to be independent in my choices.

2. What do you think are the best parts of growing up in the DC area? What did you miss about DC when you were away at college in New York?

I grew up in MCPS, an incredibly diverse and well-resourced public school system. It was never strange for me to have peers who were from all over the globe. Living in the DC area I had the best of both worlds: I could enjoy the comfort of suburban life while also being a quick metro ride away from taking art classes at the Corcoran. When I was in New York, I was able to take advantage of the many museums and other arts resources, but at the same time, I felt disconnected from the community that had nurtured me in Silver Spring.  I feel that kids can express their artistic talents best when they feel encouraged.

3. What drew you back to the area when so many 20-somethings stay in the City?

My art has taken me all over the place. I’ve been the art director at a summer program in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York, a workshop assistant at a classical atelier-style painting school in Italy, and an art student in New York City. After spending four and a half years in New York though, I was ready for my art to take me somewhere else. In September I’ll be a MAT candidate at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Everything in the art world is happening in New York, but I don’t feel that I need to be there necessarily to make my art relevant. I don’t measure my success as an artist based upon my physical location.  What matters the most to me is the quality of what I am doing.

4. Why are you inspired to work with children in the arts?

Even in MCPS, one of the best school systems in the country, most kids only have 45 minutes of art instruction per week.  Art today is taught as a way to produce a product. This is not really the most important element, for me.  Instead, art should help develop every child’s creative process.  Learning about art is great for helping kids discover how to take some risk, go outside of their comfort zones, build confidence and make decisions.  I like working with kids because they are still open to learning about things in a different way.  They are still malleable, and can pick up new skills very easily.

art at Meredith Meer class

5. How has being the daughter of a preschool director influenced your decision to work with kids?

I have had a lot of important influences in my life.  In fact, my desire to become an educator begins with my grandfather and grandmother, both of whom spent their lives teaching young children. In different ways, these two wonderful people changed lots of lives for the better.  My mom also happens to be a talented teacher and administrator.  I am in awe of what my mother has built in her career, not only in the classroom but in the community at large. I also learn a great deal from the perspectives of my students.

6. What do the kids learn in your classes?

I don’t believe in dumbed-down concepts for kids.  I think even young children can handle some very complex ideas.  In addition to earning a BFA in studio art, I minored in art history.  From private classes, to birthday parties, all of the lessons I teach deal with technique, art history and even the science of art, sometimes all simultaneously.  They learn everything from color theory to egg tempera, perspective, and fresco.  The projects we work on are “fine art,” influenced by the great masters and contemporary artists of today. I equip my students with the artistic tools they need to realize their own visions.

7. What do you think parents can do to foster artistic kids’ talents?

My number one recommendation is to send your kids to my classes!  For a full listing, please visit Building a healthy artistic practice is crucial. Artistic skill is built up like a muscle, so it’s important to encourage kids to be as prolific as you can. Another really important thing is to expose kids to lots of different kinds of art.  We are lucky to live near Washington, DC, where this is pretty easy and mostly free. Inspiration can be found in the most simple places. Encourage your children to view the world with their eyes wide open.