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Smartypants Art Studio Opens Doors To Discovery

A new art studio has opened up at 523 Main Street in downtown Merced for local residents of all ages.

Smartypants Art Studio plans to bring the world of art to young children and their parents through a variety of programming and classes.

At the helm of the new outlet for creative learning and experimentation is Dawn Bankson, who is drawing on decades of teaching experience and well-rounded lesson plans for coursework in the fine arts.

Originally from the Black Isle of Scotland, Bankson found herself embracing the world of art during her formative years. She recalls that some of her first formalized lessons in art were thanks to a local potter by the name of Mr. Dunn. During those years, while Bankson may have found herself disinterested from some of the traditional curriculum associated with academics, she was always excited when Mr. Dunn made his way through the classroom’s doors.

Her passion for the arts and the freedom they provided to find one’s own path would only continue to grow. Like Mr. Dunn, Bankson eventually became a role model for other young students interested in the arts.

Today, Bankson strives to engage students in need of an outlet when they aren’t attracted to the other extracurricular activities typically offered by their school. Within each class at Smartypants Art Studio, students are led through exploration of artistic principles like line, color, texture, and form in ways that Bankson connects with traditional subjects such as geography, history and math.

Bankson also places a great deal of importance on cultivating a cheerful environment where each student feels safe and comfortable in exploring their own answers to artistic “questions.” Each session of programming will have eight students to a class to help ensure that students form strong friendships with others in the classroom and are comfortable opening up to those around them as they work on projects.

Programs offered by Smartypants Art Studio include options for all age ranges. Starting at ages 2 to 4, the one-hour Parent and Me classes introduce both child and caretaker alike to the possibilities of artistic creation. For these classes, participants are encouraged to wear clothing that can get dirty as the studio is transformed into a series of art stations to allow for open creation. Class sessions run for four weeks.

Older artists ages 5 to 7 are able to take part in the Level One classes. For one hour for four weeks, students focus on an artist chosen by Bankson each week and create artworks in that artist’s style. Students must be able to use scissors to aid them as they begin to explore balance, line, form, color and more.

The Level Two classes are targeted at young artists ages 8 through 12. During a four-week session with one-hour classes, an artist is chosen and will be explored. Students will be immersed in learning how to shade by reproducing still life scenes and creating self-portraits, wire sculptures, and new painting techniques.

When asked about her source of motivation, Bankson pointed to the enthusiasm her students put on display as they walk in the door for each class. “The reaction is just magical when they realize what they can create when given the space,” she said. “They begin to grow both artistically and become more confident of the session.”

Bankson said she loves being able to provide a safe and enjoyable space for children, often reinforced with the mantra: “There are no mistakes in art.”

Currently Smartypants Art Studios is gearing up for a new round of classes. Registration will kick off Aug. 5, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., inside the studio for returning students. Those who are new to the afterschool classes but attended the Smartypants summer camp will be able to sign up for the next round of classes from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lastly, those who are completely new to the programming offered by Dawn Bankson can stop by the studio on Aug. 6, from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m., to register for after school classes. Those who are able to make it to Bankson’s Home School Morning Classes are able to start the registration process at 9 a.m. on August 7, with the final registration event ending at 11 a.m.

In addition to her after school offerings, Bankson also offers “Mommy and Me” classes for parents who would like to engage in creative learning alongside their little artist. Geared at children ages 2-4, the “Mommy and Me” classes bring together intuitive creative learning and bonding for a memorable experience, with participants walking away with a unique and meaningful piece of artwork at the conclusion of each session.

Following the registration period, Smartypants Art Studio will begin finalizing class schedules, with times being posted for the classes on the following Monday. Classes start at $50 a session, and top out at $75 a session for more advanced and older students.

To learn more about Smartypants Art Studio, readers can go online to:, where they can view both pricing and class session times.

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