Created in 2008, Designing Artists Academy (DAA) is an annual summer arts camp in Tokyo that offers children living in children’s homes (orphanages) a unique opportunity to experience different forms of art taught by professional artists from all over the world.
DAA is a 7-day camp in which 30-40 kids living in the children’s home ranging approximately in ages 8-15 will participate. The children will be organized by grades in groups no larger than 10, with group mentors assigned. Each morning will include focused art workshops such as photography, painting, illustration, fashion design, and craftwork followed by afternoon sessions that kids will have a chance to choose from (examples - mural painting, Japanese cultural classes, smaller craft activities, cooking, dancing, singing). At the conclusion of camp, there will be a special exhibition party to celebrate the children’s creations and the completion of camp.
By creating small groups of 10 kids who are assigned 1-2 group mentors who guide and support the group throughout the entire camp, in addition to their workshop artists and other adult volunteers who work with the group, each group is exposed to continual attention from 4-6 adults. We have witnessed the profound positive effect this mentoring aspect has had on the kids. In 7 days time, for those children who start to ‘feel noticed,’ it goes a long way towards feeling that they are not simply stigmas of society. It is this kind of breakthrough that opens up perspectives and we’ve seen new interests and potential developed because of their experience at DAA.
Our DAA camp encourages kids to think freely, discover new interests, and foster potential through mentoring. We are always looking for volunteer artists, camp counselors and general support staff. This year will be our 10th anniversary of the camp. We have already commenced preparations, so if you would like to be involved in our camp for 2019, please contact email@example.com
For updates on our DAA 2019 preparation, please visit the following link:
Amy Moyers-Knopp, camp founder
Back in 2008 while I was helping to develop another NPO that supported Tokyo children’s homes, I kept gravitating towards the idea of an art therapy camp. Rather funny in that I had no serious skills as an artist but what I could recall from my youth years in community theatre plays and nearly 10 years of dance class was that feeling of truly connecting with my inner self as well as the fact these activities often served as an outlet for stress release when I had a bad day. So right there I knew you didn’t have to have a flair for the arts, have any specific skills, but rather just enough curiosity and thoughtful guidance to make an arts program meaningful for kids. Especially those kids who have PTSD, fears, anxiety and low self-confidence.
For me, I saw DAA as an outlet for children to open up and experience new ways of expressing themselves guided by positive role models. It was all about the experience and environment. Creating a safe, fun, relaxed space for kids to learn about themselves. So with a small group of talented friends, including Miho Walker, we set out to create our camp that could serve as an effective support program for our network of children’s homes. Convincing home staff of this [new to them] camp model took months and months of discussions. At one point, we weren’t sure if even 5 kids would sign up. But sure enough, we ended up that first year with more than 30 kids registered. We learned a lot that first year. Made a lot of improvements to the camp based on that first year. It was a stressful process at times but what we did see that very first summer was encouraging… kids coming out of their shell and experiencing positive relationships with adults. Kids discovering new skills and interests they didn’t see before. Kids seeing a peek of their true potential… it was a magical end to that first year’s camp and convinced us that we were on the right path.
Miho Walker, DAA founding camp director
In 2008, I thought that it was an absolutely crazy idea when Amy suggested creating a summer camp for the orphans living in the children's homes that we were supporting.
I've never been a camp counsellor, didn't even have any babysitting experience, and therefore creating a camp for 40 children was beyond anything imaginable. But I responded "Yes." Amy then organised a team of core volunteers and we started creating the first DAA under Amy's amazing guidance. It was tough the first year but it was a great success, and I will never forget the speech that one of the girls gave on the final day - that this was not just a camp for her but a growing experience that changed her entire summer, and that she looked forward to DAA next year.
Back then which was 10 years ago, I understood the importance of DAA. But now that I have a 4-year old daughter and another baby girl on the way, I see DAA as "necessary" and not just important, because while both my daughters will be able to attend this type of summer camp every year, the children in the homes do not have the same opportunity without DAA. There are other free camps for these children in Tokyo, but they tend to be much shorter, perhaps 3-days maximum, which does not make it easy for children living in these homes to feel comfortable, open up, and fully immerse themselves. Additionally, since DAA recruits international artists, volunteers, and group mentors who are fluent in Japanese, the international environment combined with Japanese mentoring is a very impactful experience for the children. I hope that we can keep DAA running for many more years to come.