Gold Coast’s virtual camps offer creative, diverse content for summer fun at home

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The Gold Coast Arts Center has had to adapt to the limits set forth by the coronavirus. (Photo courtesy of Ellen Schiff)

The Gold Coast Arts Center has learned to adapt to the limits caused by the coronavirus pandemic with virtual classes and sessions that cater to children, teens and adults.

“All of our faculty, staff, students and parents have all learned to adapt and embrace this ‘new normal,’” Gold Coast Arts Center Executive Director Regina Gil said. “We can’t be afraid of it.”

In early March, when the coronavirus pandemic began to affect the lives of Long Islanders, Gil said the staff started to come up with various plans and courses of action to prepare for whatever obstacles the virus could cause.

“One of the challenges we faced was adapting the courses to a virtual platform in such a rapid time frame,” said Ellen Schiff, director of the center’s School for the Arts. “We did not want to lose the momentum that each class had going into the pandemic, and I say we’ve accomplished that goal.”

According to statistics provided by Schiff, more than 250 students were enrolled in the center’s virtual spring classes.  She said that the center maintained close to 90 percent of enrolled registrants for virtual classes since the pandemic began.

Now the center is offering a variety of programs that include drawing and creating new cartoon characters, singing, dancing, robotics, ceramics and more.  Despite no in-person instruction, the virtual aspect has allowed a wider range of content to be produced, and a broader audience for it to be taught to.

“We’ve been able to get instructors from California and Florida, and even had someone from Colorado who signed up to take a class,” Gil said. “Now, people aren’t just judging us on our convenient location [in Great Neck], but rather for the content we can provide anyone, which we take great pride in.”

Schiff and Gil both touted the instructors’ collective dedication to creating innovative content and maintaining positive and strong-rooted relationships with their students despite not being immediately present with them.

“The directors, teachers and staff meet virtually every day,” Gil said. “Our dance teachers, for instance, have a deep bond and relationship with their students. For them, it’s more than just learning a few steps or a general routine. It’s a trust thing.”

“There’s so much personal attention that our staff provides our students on a daily basis,” Schiff said. “It’s about knowing the students and knowing the potential each one has.”

Schiff said there are a number of aspects that make the center’s virtual classes special and successful such as small class sizes, immediate feedback on work progress, encouraging social interaction, real-time direction from instructors, and specialized teaching for children from 4 to 16 years old.

One of the newer courses that Gold Coast offers for interested teenagers is a college essay writing class designed for high school juniors and seniors.  Students in the course will learn about common application essay questions, discuss strategies, and develop techniques that will enable them to write the perfect reflective and personal essay.

The center was also able to secure the Distant Cousins Band based in California to help educate teens on how to write, collaborate on and perform music.  The band, Gil said, has tremendous experience in writing music for television and film.

“We haven’t really been able to offer these programs to a targeted teenage audience in the past since the ones in the area would be typically busy with work, internships, or other activities,” Gil said. “Now, we’re able to keep them entertained throughout the whole summer.”

Gil said the center, with help from the Village of Great Neck Plaza, was able to obtain permission to use the center’s parking lot for an outdoor painting session on July 22 and 29 from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more information, testimonials, videos and other resources for virtual summer camps, Gil said, visit https://goldcoastarts.org/school-for-the-arts/online/.

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