Bad Dog Arts Inspires a Love of Art for Kids of All Ages
“To be an artist, you have to be a risk taker.” So says Victoria Lyons, co-founder/co-director of Bad Dog Arts, an organization named for the star of an illustrated book, Bad Dog Rediscovers America, by Michael Morgan Moonbird, the organization’s other co-founder and co-director. In the book, Bad Dog is a risk-taking renegade who travels around the country getting into all sorts of sticky situations.
When Victoria and Michael embarked on the project that would become Bad Dog Arts, they followed their hearts into a venture that has touched children and adults in many previously undiscovered corners of the Salt Lake community. Bad Dog Arts has introduced the city’s underserved communities to the joy of creating art since 1997.
Michael and Victoria met while in art school at the University of Utah. Both were involved in Salt Lake’s ArtSpace community when the opportunity arose to teach in a summer arts program for kids. “The kids needed something structured to occupy them in the summertime,” says Victoria. “We discovered that we love working with kids, and that we’re good at it. We wanted to continue after the summer was over. So our mentor suggested that we start a non-profit.”
With lots of support from the Salt Lake art community, the organization was dubbed Bad Dog Rediscovers America. The name was later shortened to the more descriptive “Bad Dog Arts.”
In its 17 years, Bad Dog has built partnerships all over the Salt Lake community, including artists, schools, community centers, other non-profits and arts organizations. “The community-building aspect of it is so inspiring to me,” says Victoria. “I love the way we’ve been able to tie together so many different facets of the community. We work with all kinds of people across the board.”
One of Bad Dog’s most recent partnerships is with the Mountain View/Glendale Community Learning Center. The center is nestled between the neighborhood’s public elementary and middle schools and serves one of Utah’s most culturally diverse communities. The center partners with schools to offer educational opportunities such as ESL and GED courses, affordable dental and medical services to students in need, and with Bad Dog Arts, to provide art education.
Last summer the organizations collaborated to offer four summer camps that explored cooking, art and theater. CLC utilized its fully equipped teaching kitchens and drew on community members from various cultures to offer cooking instruction. Bad Dog teachers taught art classes that coordinated with the cooking themes.
The three cooking and art camps welcomed different age groups. From youngest to oldest, the camps were titled “Play with Your Food,” “Art and Cooking Around the World,” and “Good Eats with Local Chefs.” Participants learned to cook a dish in the morning and ate their creations for lunch. At the end of the art and theater camp, students produced their own play: Three Piggy Opera. Bad Dog is currently sponsoring a 12-week workshop called “Sweet Treats,” where students learn how to make a different treat each week.
Bad Dog provides art classes on site at their studio and at various sites around the community. On a recent day, kindergartners and first graders at the studio were creating art from Sharpies and watercolors in a class called “Paint Me a Story.” Each week students learn about an illustrated children’s book and then create art inspired by it. They try out different media each week. “If they don’t connect to one form of media, they might connect with the next one,” says Victoria. “People assume that five and six year olds can’t settle down and concentrate. As long as you give them direction and variety, they do great!”
Bad Dog exhibitions include everything from end-of-class art shows for parents and friends to permanent installations such as the Trolley Square TRAX Station and a colorful mural on Whole Foods’ Trolley Square building. The grand opening at the Glendale Library will feature a Bad Dog mural.
In 17 years of running Bad Dog, Michael and Victoria have seen many students come and go. Some have returned later on with kids of their own. Michael says this has been the most inspiring part of running this organization. “We love watching kids evolve. Many of them stay in the program for years. Even after they leave the program they still stay in touch. It’s really gratifying.”
Through December a percentage of your Hugger Mugger purchases will go to benefit Bad Dog Arts’ wonderful programs!