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185 Colonial Springs RoadWheatley Heights , NY 631-643-7900
Usdan is one of the nation’s top not-for-profit day camps for the arts. Profiled in The New York Times and Time Magazine, Usdan has been declared a “Best Of” camp by Time Out NY Kids and NY Metro Parents. Diverse and playfully rigorous from the start, for over 50 years Usdan has brought experienced educators and professional artists—actors, directors, playwrights, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, poets, and novelists—to teach and collaborate with campers ages 5 to 18.
Usdan is set on an idyllic 140-acre woodland campus on Long Island, dotted with open-air studios and performance spaces designed to inspire creativity, collaboration, and experimentation. Campers choose to “Major” from our seven Departments of Art, Chess, Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Nature & Sustainability, and Theater. The Usdan experience is unique among arts summer camps around Long Island and 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.
Lauren Brandt Schloss joined Usdan in 2015. With her appointment, she became Usdan's third leader in a half century and the first woman to hold the position. Bringing 20+ years experience in arts education, at the Queens Museum, MoMA, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Lauren 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.
The Usdan faculty is composed of experienced arts educators and professional artists-actors, directors, playwrights, painters, sculptors, musicians, composers, dancers, poets, and novelists 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.
By design, Usdan combines welcome and wonder - an oasis that parents and campers describe as magical, transforming, unforgettable, and home. Situated in the woods, we believe nature opens a door to creativity and expression. Usdan is a safe, secure place within which campers have the freedom to play, explore nature, and develop personal independence. As stewards of 140 acres of natural beauty, Usdan teaches campers the values and practices of sustainability as it strives to become a fully sustainable organization by 2030. In addition to 70 open-air studios and performance spaces, the campus has four modern tennis courts, three large outdoor swimming pools, two yoga platforms, an archery range, a field used for soccer and quidditch, two gaga courts, and a recreation area for basketball and other games.
Usdan’s Classic program provides an immersive arts experience and fosters friendship and shared enthusiasm among young artists in grades 2 through 12. Our program offers instruction by experienced educators and professional artists in seven Departments: Art, Chess, Creative Writing, Dance, Music, Nature & Sustainability, and Theater. All that is needed to attend is an open mind and an excitement for the arts. Students may choose a Major within any of our Departments. Majors include three periods, or approximately three hours of instructional time. During those three periods, students immerse themselves in an area of study that they are passionate about, while also enjoying a variety of art experiences within their chosen Department. In order to keep our community as safe as possible, students will stay in their assigned group of 15 students maximum for the entire camp day. Our 4- and 8-week sessions are divided into two-week blocks, giving students the option to change their Major every two weeks. Some of our campers love to explore different Departments, and some choose to focus on one. Please visit our Departments page and Classes page for more information on your child’s Department(s) or Major(s) of interest. The day is enriched by a one-period Recreational Activity to support campers’ creative development by encouraging movement and play, and to get them inspired by the natural world. Usdan students in grades 2 and 3 are met by their lead faculty each morning and travel to their classes together to support their growing independence. This additional support helps our younger students feel comfortable and confident as they learn, make friends, and have fun. To better understand changes made to our Classic program to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty, please visit our COVID Updates page.
The Discovery program provides a fun and exciting exploration of the arts for students currently in kindergarten or 1st grade. Surrounded by Usdan's woodland campus, and using the Discovery Center as a base, children have experiences in Music, Art, Dance, Nature & Sustainability, and Recreational Arts led by professional artists and educators. Two college-age counselors help guide each small group of 12 students throughout their adventurous day, while also creating diverse and engaging activities that are tailored to students' interests, fostering a safe, nurturing, and positive atmosphere. After completing their 1st-grade summer at camp, children from the Discovery program head into Usdan's Classic program feeling confident and excited because they have spent their summer getting a taste of its many opportunities. To better understand changes made to our Discovery program to ensure the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty, please visit our COVID Updates page.
Until we hear otherwise from New York State and local Suffolk County officials, our plan is to incorporate physical distancing, along with other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), into our camp day, which will mean operating at approximately 50 percent of our normal capacity. We will adopt a cohort model in order to limit contact among students. This means students will be with the same group, 15 maximum, for the full camp day including their Major, Recreational Activity, and lunchtime. While there will be some program changes to ensure our community's health and safety, we promise never to lose sight of what makes Usdan a unique summer camp. We remain an immersive arts experience, focusing on both creative and social-emotional growth, which we know will be more important this summer than ever.
Usdan campers love the Art Department because of its diverse course offerings, incredible teachers, and the opportunity it provides to make friends who share their passion for creating. Dotted with open-air studios with large skylights that let in natural light and courtyards with outdoor workspaces, the Art Department provides constant inspiration through the nature that surrounds us. Students get to create their own art studio space within their Major studio to support the health and safety of the greater Usdan community. Art Majors spend their days engaging in a combination of direct instruction by experienced art educators and professional artists, studio work time, collaboration with other young artists, and sharing and reflecting on their work. They have opportunities to work with faculty other than their lead teacher to add variety and new skills to their learning. 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.
Usdan's Music Department features small instrumental and vocal ensembles led by our incredible music faculty, made up of experienced educators and professional musicians and conductors. String, wind, brass, percussion, piano, guitar, and vocal students are welcome. Instrumentalists must have at least one year of experience playing their instrument. Music Majors take place in open-air studios with at least one side completely open and exposed to the surrounding woodland campus. This summer's small group sizes allow young musicians and vocalists to experience a mix of both group and solo performance development. Music faculty aim to expand students' love of music with a wide range of repertoire from diverse genres, time periods, and composers. In addition to their daily ensemble rehearsals, students have the opportunity to learn secondary skills such as music theory and composition for instrumentalists and beginning piano and sight-singing for vocalists. In order to ensure that our ensembles best serve the group, instrumentalists will be asked to submit a placement video shortly after enrollment.
Dance instruction at Usdan is rigorous, caring, and fun. Small group sizes foster an intimate learning experience in which campers can build strong relationships with faculty and peers. Dance Majors are taught by experienced dance educators and professional dancers and choreographers. During their time in the studio, students are exposed to multiple dance styles and choreography, have an opportunity to learn about dance traditions, and engage in dance-making. Usdan's Dance studios are spacious and mirrored, with vinyl marley floors (except for tap dance), and generous skylights that provide natural lighting. Studios are open-air, with one to three sides completely open and exposed to the surrounding woodland campus. Campers with a wide-range of previous training can find an experience that is right for their level and interests. While the majority of our Majors welcome all levels, Rhythm Studies II and Classical Studies require previous dance experience and are noted as such on their class cards. In order to ensure that our classes best serve the group, our enrollment form includes questions about dance background. Usdan faculty may advise Major changes before camp begins if they think your child might benefit from taking an alternate Major.
Usdan Theater students work on a full musical theater production and/or focus on specific skills including acting, singing, and comedy. No matter the Major, all Theater students receive instruction from experienced theater educators and professional actors and directors. The Theater Department includes two theaters and eight rehearsal studios that are open-air with one to three sides exposed to the surrounding woodland campus, allowing for plenty of ventilation. Experienced students currently in 8th to 12th grade are invited to 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." In order to ensure that this Major best serves the entire group, students are asked to submit an audition video shortly after enrollment. Recent full productions in Musical Theater and the Usdan Troupe include: Frozen, Aladdin, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dracula, Fiddler on the Roof, and Singin in the Rain.
Usdan’s Chess Department is uniquely designed to meet the needs of each player, whether that person is a new or experienced competitor. 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 in-game. Chess players at camp 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. Chess faculty are highly ranked tournament players with decades of experience. Chess Majors take place in our spacious Maurice B. Hexter Center, which will be well ventilated, with all doors and windows open.
Usdan's woodland campus is an ideal place to experience and learn about the natural world. Led by experienced nature educators, this hands-on program helps students foster a connection with the environment through exploration, creativity, and mindfulness. At our Nature Center and Organic Garden, students learn about the plants and wildlife of Usdan, make art from natural materials, care for Usdan's pets, grow food and other plants, learn about sustainable practices and design, and connect with other nature enthusiasts. Nature & Sustainability students will be outdoors all day. When it rains, they will work on projects in well-ventilated studios with windows and doors open. 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.
Whether their preferred form is poetry, plays, short stories, novels, or nonfiction, our young storytellers have the opportunity to practice their writing in small, collaborative groups. Working in peaceful, open-air studios, writers build imaginative narratives and find their creative voices, while experimenting with the core elements of storytelling, including style, structure, setting, point of view, conflict, and resolution. Under the instruction of an experienced writing educator and practicing writer and poet, students spend their days playing writing and word games, writing, revising, sharing, collaborating, and drawing inspiration from Usdan's campus and other art forms. All writing students gain invaluable editorial experience by shaping and contributing their works to a new installment of Usdan's Literary Journal.
Meet the Director |
In October 2015, 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.