BLOG   •  MOBILE   ·  July 8, 2022

San Diego Youth Explore Their Creative Potential at MOPA Camps

  • Camps strengthen confidence and intentionality in young people

  • Balboa Park offers a fun, engaging backdrop for youth 

At MOPA camps, learning creative skills and having fun go hand in hand. Youth learn self confidence through skills like storytelling and intention-setting. 

“Photography can transform into art and not just be used for documentation,” said Vanessa Alcaraz, MOPA camps lead. “We give campers the freedom to explore aspects of their creativity that they didn’t think could be turned into photography.”


Exciting Ideas Take Form in Camp Projects


At stop-motion animation camp, campers tell stories that show their unique perspectives. From fantastic tales of castles to TV’s next great cooking show, they explore their limitless imagination with self-confidence. 

Selecting from a whole array of materials like clay and construction paper, campers build stories from the ground up. In the image below, we see how two young producers used two posable figures outfitted with chef hats. The characters are in the midst of filming the creation of a delicious recipe with fresh veggies!

With each limb of their mannequins being completely moveable, we watch the gray chef pick up a juicy red tomato. As the other mannequin — the sous chef if you will — looks on, their partner gathers the cheese grater and clay rolling pin, patiently waiting for direction. Little did we know, the next great cooking show was forming right in the class. 


The Fun Starts In Balboa Park


As campers embark on these exciting, creative avenues together, historic Balboa Park acts as the playground for new discoveries. Exploring all of the park’s nooks and crannies can be an adventure all on its own and being able to collaborate with peers only adds to the fun. 

“We have a lot of games and activities that we do with the campers each morning to break the ice and foster friendships and bonding,” said Megan Swiertz, MOPA’s Youth Programs Coordinator.

MOPA camps teach the importance of creating with intentionality.  Youth tell their own story in their own words (or images). Challenges like only being able to take photos of one color teach direction and determination when telling a story. Sometimes it’s difficult to only stick to one hue, but staying within a parameter can help campers establish setting intention behind their work.

In the collage below, Vera chose purple— and had to stick with it throughout the day. As she ventured out into the sea of green foliage and beige ornate buildings that decorate Balboa Park, Vera needed to dig deeper to find the elusive purple hue. With a delicate garden violet and a bold graphic t-shirt, we see her vision start to form.

Student showing their completed project for the one color challenge

Suddenly all of these seemingly unrelated, random objects look curated to fit together. Indigo and lilac education materials create a peek into what Vera found important to share. The words “Just Do It” written across the purple garment almost feel like Vera is urging us to go on our own Balboa Park adventure.   

Throughout the week we see campers become more comfortable taking up space. Ideas and solutions can no longer just live in the brain but need to be expressed and explored. Balboa Park becomes a limitless trove of inspiration, revealing plot lines to animated shorts or the messages behind a mixed media marvel.  

 “Towards the end of the week, I really see their progression and really do see them retain the skills they learned. I love seeing their binders full of projects. They all want to share their work with each other,” said Alcaraz. 

With friendships forged and passion ignited, campers leave feeling proud of themselves and eager to let their voices be known. 

If you or someone you know would like to experience all of the fun at MOPA camps, be sure to sign up for the camps newsletter and stay up to date. You may also check our camps page for enrollment updates.


Beyond MOPA Camps


A student posing with their teacher during the Youth Exhibition: Dreamscapes

Image courtesy of Stacy Keck

The excitement doesn’t end here. Many campers find themselves participating in another one of MOPA’s programs, the Annual Juried Youth Exhibition. 

“When it’s up, it’s really fun that some of the campers see their piece in the galleries and say ‘Oh this is mine!” Alcaraz said. 

Every year, students throughout San Diego County and Tijuana are encouraged to submit work that responds visually to a particular theme. Students whose artworks are selected have a unique opportunity to share their voices with their community.

For more details on how you can participate in the Youth Exhibition, check to see if we have an ongoing open call or join our mailing list.

Written by Janan Salaam, MOPA digital marketing apprentice


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Welcome to the Museum of Photographic Arts at The San Diego Museum of Art!

As of July 1, 2023, the Museum of Photographic Arts and The San Diego Museum of Art have merged to become one unified institution. The Museum of Photographic Arts is now the Museum of Photographic Arts at The San Diego Museum of Art (MOPA@SDMA).

MOPA@SDMA remains a pay-what-you wish museum open Thursdays through Sundays 11:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you soon!