by Tori Hamby

CORNELIUS – Artist Cyndi Cooper noticed a hole in the types of art education programs offered to local children, especially homeschoolers.
Many programs taught art technique and others simply offered educational activities to go along with home-school instruction, but few combined the two, Cooper said.

So earlier this year, she created Cornelius-based Grow Your Mind Classes – art education classes that help kids learn about everything from volcanoes to numbers to food science using visual art techniques.

“I think kids can learn anything as long as it’s presented to them in the right way,” said Cooper, who holds classes in a space she rents from Kids Dance Studio, 20700 N. Main St.

She runs separate classes for toddlers, ages 2-3; preschoolers, ages 4-5; younger home-schooled students, ages 5-8; and older home-school students, ages 9-13. Five-week sessions cost $55, with one class per week.

In previous sessions, students have painted with earthworms to learn about earthworm anatomy, imitated the art techniques used in major art movements such as impressionism and realism to create their own original pieces and made life-sized drawings of themselves using feet and inches.

She also holds drop-in art exploration labs where parents can bring their kids on selected days to make whatever they wish using a variety of Cooper’s art supplies. The lab session costs $5 per hour of playtime.

Cooper, who holds a degree in visual communications, began her art career as a graphic designer and has worked as a children’s artist and muralist for more than 10 years. She has also taught classes at Sanctuary of Davidson.

She said she realized, while trying to answer her young son’s questions about the world, that he could better understand complicated concepts if she found a way to illustrate those concepts visually.

“When I ask him questions about volcanoes or about numbers, I can see him thinking back to the projects we’ve made,” Cooper said. “The answers stick with him better than from just reading and learning.”

For more details or to sign up for classes, visit www.growyourmindclasses.com or call Cooper at 704-231-6554.