It’s just about time for the July 9 session of Cartoon Camp to begin, and the chatter is lively from the 12 students around the U-shaped table in the lower level of Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy.
Leafing through the books of cartoon characters and superheroes that have been placed in front of them for inspiration, they pay rapt attention when “Mrs. B,” Pat Beréskin, the gallery owner, begins to speak.
Dressed in her familiar tan-colored smock dappled with all colors of paint, Beréskin challenges the students to think about what kind of superheroes they would be and what they would look like.
"You have to have a superhero name, and it has to be original to you," she said.
One student suggests that if Mrs. B was a superhero, she would have flying powers, like a bee.
"What if I had a paintbrush in my hand?" Beréskin asks her students. "I could draw my way out of a situation."
Beréskin is already a hero in the eyes of her students, who have high praise for the class and their teacher.
"We can use our imagination," said Chase O’Connor, 10, a student at Pleasant Valley Schools' Hopewell Elementary and a veteran of Mrs. B’s classes.
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Many of the students taking classes at Beréskin are already involved in art at their homes. Some of them take classes at the academy that extend throughout the academic year.
Beréskin, who taught and volunteered in the Bettendorf School District for many years, said every job she’s had in her life prepared her for what she does today.
"The gallery is a beautiful front for the best part … the heart of this building is in the hearts of every single kid that sits at this table," she said.
Other experiences offered to children this summer include French Camp, Jewelry Camp, Pioneer Times, Fashion Forward and Pen & Ink. And that’s just a mini-sampling.
Beréskin tries to get her students to see the large picture.
"Nobody ever ate a banana split in one bite," she said. “You can show them that it takes bite after bite, time after time. I can help them to become better students, better citizens, just better, happier people because they’ll break the big picture down into smaller shapes, starting with the biggest first."
There are classes for every age and every interest at the Beréskin Gallery & Art Academy. Students range from preschool to 95 years old, she said.
The new brochure for fall classes beginning in August is just out, and you can check out the offerings at www.bereskinartgallery.com. Registration is easily accomplished online.
"There is something for everybody," Beréskin said.