Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts is a premier arts summer camp for children in the New York metropolitan area. 2-, 4-, and 7-week summer arts programs for NYC area students are offered each year.
Diverse and playfully rigorous from the start, for over fifty years Usdan has brought world-class teachers and visiting artists – actors, directors, playwrights, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, poets and novelists – to teach and collaborate with our campers ages 4 to 18.
Our arts summer camp is set on an idyllic 140-acre woodland campus in Long Island, dotted with open-air studios and performance spaces designed to inspire creativity, collaboration and experimentation.
Campers choose to “major” and “minor” in classic artistic disciplines such as painting, music, theater or dance, or in new-media fields like photography and video for social media and video-game design.
The Usdan experience is unique among arts summer camps around NYC, as it brings together the rigor of artistic practice and the playfulness of a classic summer camp, with places to swim, play sports, and practice yoga and archery. It is no surprise that many campers choose to return year after year to continue their creative journeys in Usdan’s safe and welcoming environment.
Meet Our Team
Lauren Brandt Schloss - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
In 2016, Lauren Brandt Schloss became executive director of Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts. With her appointment, she became Usdan’s third leader in a half century. With 20 years experience in arts education, at the Queens Museum, MoMA, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, she is committed to ensuring that Usdan is at the forefront of educational and artistic practices. Ms. Schloss earned a B.A. in art history from Princeton University and an M.A. in arts administration from Columbia University.
FACULTY AND STAFF
The Usdan faculty is composed of renowned and experienced practitioners and instructors dedicated to encouraging students to be creative in every endeavor throughout their lives. The Usdan staff works year round to create a memorable, transformative summer experience for all students.
We bring world-class teachers and visiting artists—actors, directors, playwrights, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, poets, and novelists—to teach and collaborate with Usdan campers ages 4 to 18. It’s a two-way exchange; because we know experienced artists and young creators contribute to one another’s work and development.
One hundred forty acres of natural beauty forge the literal and metaphoric space students need to feel both safe and independent enough to step out of their school-year selves. Parents and campers describe the Usdan campus, “Amazing,” “Exciting,” “Inspiring,” “Awesome,” “Magical,” “Beautiful,” “Transforming,” “Unforgettable,” “Safe,” “Home,” and “Family.”
Students have access to 70 studios and theaters. Clustered by department, students move easily from studio to studio for collaboration and camaraderie. The campus has four modern tennis courts, three large outdoor swimming pools, two yoga platforms, an archery range, a Quidditch field, and a recreation area for basketball and other games.
WORLD CLASS PERFROMANCES
One of the most unique aspects of Usdan’s summer program is the camp’s daily series of festival concerts. Accomplished and distinguished artists from around the world perform on Usdan’s stage throughout the summer. Past performers include: Yo-Yo Ma, James Galway, Tokyo String Quartet, Emanuel Ax, Canadian Brass, André Watts, the Heath Brothers, New York City Ballet, the Limon Dance Company, and stars of Broadway shows.
INDIVIDUAL & CREATIVE GROWTH
With nearly 70 classes and over 1,500 students each summer, Usdan guides every camper on a path of individual and creative growth, with the help of a team of artists and talented arts educators. The Usdan approach is distinctively interactive and hands-on, rooted in a balance between creative process, artistic practice, and craft on the one hand, and final product and performance on the other. Programs allow students to dive deeply into a single discipline while also exploring across multiple disciplines. Advanced students have abundant opportunities to deepen their craft alongside distinguished, professional artists.
USDAN CLASSIC Grades 2-12, 4- and 7-week programs
Usdan Summer Camp for the Arts is the nation’s preeminent not-for-profit summer day camp. Located on 140 enchanting acres in Huntington, Long Island, Usdan provides children with unparalleled performing and fine arts study in a fun and welcoming environment that fosters a lifetime of imagination and creativity.
Campers learn from some of New York’s most distinguished performers and instructors in a collaborative and supportive environment alongside fellow students whose bond is their love of the arts.
Welcome to a community of makers and dreamers. Our goal is to give each camper a way to explore an existing passion in depth while also sampling other intriguing offerings.
In two-, four-, and seven-week sessions, campers can choose from classes in five arts disciplines; Art, Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Theater and three other specialty areas; Chess, Nature, and Recreational Arts. Campers pick a “major” and a “minor.” Each day, they spend two class periods in their major, one period in their minor, and one period in a recreational activity.
Usdan Focus is a great way to explore in depth an artistic medium. Students choose a program of study with two complementary classes, totaling three periods, and have their choice of a recreational activity. Campers also expand their arts experience through daily assemblies featuring performances by professional and student artists. Each two-week Focus group creates its own microcosm within the larger Usdan community, making it easy for friendships and connections to develop. Students can add variety to their summer by sampling several Focus programs back to back or adding a session to their four-week summer arts program schedule
Usdan’s Discovery Program is a unique summer arts camp experience for kids in Pre-K, Kindergarten or first grade who want to explore the arts in several disciplines and media.
Play and exploration are at the heart of Discovery, where children enjoy music, art, dance and swim multiple times a week. Discovery students experience a special multi-disciplinary program tailored for their age group. Discovery students experience the arts through hands-on practice with Usdan's esteemed faculty. Each class is led by a minimum of four adults who provide individualized attention and support.
Discovery campers attend select assemblies performed by professional and student artists. In addition to the core program, additional activities draw from Usdan's diverse offerings such as theater, nature, archery, chess and photography. With the Discovery Center as a base, campers explore the arts together in small groups with dedicated counselors to guide them throughout their adventurous day.
PARTNERS IN THE ARTS Grades 2-3, 2-, 4- and 7-week programs
Partners in the Arts is a special summer arts program for Usdan students in grades 2 and 3 that supports their growing independence. Partners campers are in Usdan Classic or Usdan Focus, just like older campers, but are escorted from class to class by counselors. Counselors are high school aged students in Usdan’s Leadership Institute for the Arts who are familiar with Usdan’s campus and programs. They are chosen for their maturity and rapport with young campers. Partners in the Arts participants meet their counselors at the McKinley Amphitheater each morning of camp and then proceed to their classes together. The Partners in the Arts program helps young students feel comfortable and confident as they learn, make friends and have fun.
LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE FOR THE ARTS Grades 9-12 7-week program
Tailored for Usdan's most senior students, our leadership development program is designed to cultivate thoughtful, independent young artists. This program is open to High School students in all majors. Their day consists of a major, a minor, daily assemblies by student and professional artists, an Institute period and a job assignment. The Institute period will include leadership training, sessions with visiting artists, freedom to work on individual and group projects, opportunities for community service including supervised teaching and for high school juniors, portfolio development. Members gain valuable work experience serving as guides and role models for younger students and assisting in camp programs, operations, and performances.
Applicants will be selected based on their leadership potential. Accepted students will receive stipends varying in size based on their job assignment. Students pay tuition and may apply for a merit award to be applied towards it.
Campers love Usdan’s summer art programs because our diverse class offerings allow for both deep engagement and exploration. Students learn from working artists specializing in their field of focus, from classic disciplines such as painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture to new-media fields like video-game design and photography and video for social media.
Seventy open-air studios dot the forested campus and create a sense of flow and community among artists. Each studio is tailored to its medium with materials, equipment and software. Studios feature large skylights, as well as courtyards that take advantage of natural light and the inspiration of nature, which is a distinguishing feature of Usdan’s summer art programs. Throughout the summer, campers can visit the campus art gallery, which mounts student, faculty, and visiting-artist exhibitions.
Whether you are excited about playing in a big orchestra, an intimate chamber music ensemble, a lively concert band, or a dynamic jazz ensemble, our music summer program will give you the chance to learn and grow as a musician.
In the chorus program, our singers focus on finding their voices, mastering technique, and working together to learn major choral repertoire. Piano and guitar students work on technique and perspective through individual and ensemble practice and performance. Our orchestra musicians form the core of Usdan's four dynamic orchestras, and practice within a full orchestra as well as in their own sections each day. Our jazz students can be-bop, swing or samba in Usdan’s jazz ensembles, and receive tailored instruction within their sectionals and ensembles depending on their age and experience level. Four concert bands offer exceptional collaboration and performance opportunities for budding band musicians of every age and ability.
Our dancers study technique, classic repertory, and original choreography with nationally renowned dancers and choreographers. We offer classes across a wide range of styles and traditions, including contemporary dance, ballet, jazz, hip hop, funk and tap. In addition to Usdan’s professional dance faculty, our program partners with three dance companies: the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, and Pilobolus.
Dance instruction is rigorous, caring and fun. Studios are spacious and mirrored, with soft floors and generous skylights that give an open-air effect. Each class culminates in a freshly choreographed dance performance for the entire community.
Whether you prefer to be on stage or backstage, Usdan’s robust summer theater program offers students a chance to choose from an array of performance and hands-on technical theater classes and work side by side with highly skilled theater professionals and instructors.
The dynamic hub of the Usdan theater program is the extraordinary Lemberg Drama Center, which includes an air-conditioned indoor theater, two outdoor theaters, and rehearsal studios, as well as costume, prop, and set shops. With offerings in both drama and musical theater, our students have several opportunities to experience the full of cycle of staging and performing a play or musical throughout the summer. Recent productions include Into the Woods, Frog and Toad, Finian’s Rainbow, and Oliver!
High-school aged students may audition for The Usdan Troupe, which presents one fully, staged musical production every year. Former company members describe it as "summer stock theater for teens."
Usdan’s chess summer camp program follows the principles of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation and is uniquely designed to meet the needs of each student, whether they are new to chess or are experienced competitors. The Usdan Chess Ladder groups students in varying levels, from absolute novices to advanced tournament players. New players learn rules, notation, and the opening, middle, and end games. Advanced players develop a vast repertoire of complex strategies and the ability to apply them shrewdly in-game. Chess players benefit from improved problem solving, critical thinking, and concentration. Students hone their skills through game-play and tutoring in competitive chess tournaments and exciting team competitions. Individual and group lessons are conducted by highly-ranked tournament players with decades of experience. A major highlight of our chess summer camp is that celebrated chess masters come to Usdan to serve as guest teachers and share their expertise with our young players.
Usdan’s magnificent forest, nature center, and organic garden provide a vast outdoor laboratory for teaching and learning.
In our hands-on nature program, students study the art of planting, growing and cultivating food by caring for Usdan’s own fruit and vegetable gardens, and learn to prepare simple dishes from the produce they grow. Exploring the flora and fauna in Usdan’s idyllic woodland forest allows students to understand the delicate relationships at the heart of Long Island’s vibrant local ecosystem. In an innovative course on sustainable art, students are challenged to combine art, science and empathy to identify creative and sustainable solutions to pressing environmental problems. Students also care for the Nature Department's pet snakes, lizards, and tortoise.
Creative Writing at Usdan takes full advantage of NYC’s pool of exceptional writers to lead our summer creative writing programs. Our faculty is comprised of accomplished authors who are also experienced in nurturing students in the discipline and art of writing.
Whether their preferred form is poetry, plays, short stories, novels, or non-fiction, our young storytellers get to practice their writing in small, collaborative groups. Working in peaceful, open air writing studios, our writers build imaginative narratives and find their creative voices, while experimenting with the core elements of storytelling like style, structure, setting, point of view, conflict and resolution. One vital element of our teaching involves encouraging our students to experience empathy, both as an ingredient and a result of their writing practice. Finally, all writing students gain invaluable editorial experience by shaping and contributing their works to a new installment of Usdan’s literary magazine, Painting with Words.
The Recreational Arts program augments Usdan’s core mission to support campers’ creative development by encouraging physical fitness and an appreciation of the natural world. This comprehensive approach to our children’s creative, spiritual, and physical development makes Usdan unique among camps in our region. Set in an idyllic woodland forest, our campus spaces are joined together by walking paths and are designed for optimal enjoyment of fresh air and natural light. Across campus, students can enjoy nature walks, splash in two large outdoor swimming pools, play sports on multiple playing fields, as well as practice yoga and archery.
Each day, students spend a dedicated period enjoying a Recreational Activity of their choice. Each of these activities, with the exception of Recreational Swim, can also be chosen as a Minor.