by Stephanie Westley, ArtsErie Program Assistant
One Friday evening, I dropped in to the Neighborhood Partnership Center (formerly the Bethany Center) at 254 E 10th Street to check out the end of a robotics class at the Box of Light Studio. After class, I got a chance to chat with Box of Light instructors, Jude Shingle and Annie Schmitt. I spoke separately with Box of Light mastermind Rand Whipple a few days later for his perspective.
Stephanie Westley: What is Box of Light?
Rand Whipple: It is a digital arts studio. Box of Light lives where technology and art meet. We do animation and film; we work with computers and cameras. We ensure that it is a studio that teaches people to make their own media and see themselves in the films they make.
SW: Box of Light just opened its new Erie studio in March after holding its classes at the Erie Art Museum. What are you most looking forward to being here in your new studio?
RW: Going to the studio for our opening night was fun and exciting. I drove out to Erie from my hometown of Bloomsburg where I first started Box of Light ten years ago. The kids were there with their families and they showed up. I heard people might not go to east Erie, but it is a block from the stadium. Opening the studio on March 2nd was a fun happy time for me.
Jude Shingle: Making a really cool space where kids can come and hang out. We want to make it comfortable and fun. It fosters good relationships where ideas are not discouraged. We guide things and everyone is encouraged.
Annie Schmitt: It’s a fun, safe place to play.
SW: What classes do you offer now?
JS: Lego animation, robotics, KidTV which is where kids make their own TV show, comic book drawing where kids learn drawing through comic book making, and Claymation.
SW: What ages are appropriate for your classes?
JS: We have children as young as 6 up to 14. The classes work for all ages because it’s based on the child, what they're capable of and interested in, and we create a path that’s rewarding for them.
SW: What are the projects you will be working on for your summer camps?
JS: The best answer is on our online summer schedule. But they will include Claymation animation, robotics, Lego animation, costume making, monster movie madness, and a one-day camp called the Greatest Art Making Ever where in three hours, we will travel through time and visit the coolest art making techniques known to man.
SW: What skills do your classes instill in participants?
RW: Computers are tools for expression, for you to look at your life, decide what you want to say and create with words, images and sound. Students get computer skills and media literacy which is understanding how to bring in an image or sound, manipulate it or filter it, and use it to say something to the world.
AS: With robotics it’s very much about logic and everything is about problem solving.
JS: The biggest thing is building up resilience when you are in the face of failure. We teach how to persevere and think about something, break it down into steps so you know how to approach it, and really problem solve.
SW: What is some of the feedback you’ve heard from parents?
JS: Very positive. They’ve said that they have been looking for something like this, and we are it. One said her nephew loved it and he wants to come back. Another parent who overheard said, “Yeah, that happens.” You won’t have a choice; kids always want to come back. Any parent who has observed the class understands that learning is happening and that makes them even more thrilled.
AS: Getting kids to work together in groups has been very helpful for shy kids. Parents that are nervous about their kids not working with others come and they are fine.
SW: If you were a kid and you wanted to come to Box of Light classes, what classes would you take and what would you say to your parents?
AS: I would do KidTV because I’m a ham.
JS: I would tell my parents to let me sleep here every day. If you ask the parents, that’s what most of them say. The kids ask, “What are we doing tomorrow?” And the parents say, “Sorry, we aren’t coming here tomorrow.”
I would do everything here.
I would live here.
Want to check out Box of Light for yourself?
Come to the Studio Open House
on Saturday, April 6th at 1 p.m.
for a Lego Build and Film Event!