by Pia K. Hansen

When thinking about what can be made out of clay, most people wouldn't exactly come up with pizza. Pots? Yes. Plates? Yes. Even the occasional tile or bird feeder. But pizza?

Nevertheless, it was the all-American pizza pie that was the biggest hit at this summer's ceramics class at Spokane Art School. As I visit with Sue Ellen Heflin, the art school's executive director, she shows me shelf after shelf of the summer students' creations. The incredibly accurate and detailed clay pizzas are fascinating -- they have little rock mushrooms and thinly sliced clay pieces of pepperoni, and one has a perfectly triangular slice cut out of it. Who woulda thunk it?

"I guess it goes to show you what they come up with," says Heflin, looking slightly puzzled herself. "You never know what's going to be the big hit."

She reaches for a more traditional-looking vase.

"Whoa, this one weighs a ton," she says, carefully putting the vase back in its place. Instead, we look at a couple of clay turtles and some dinosaurs, complete with scales and scary teeth.

"It's amazing what they come up with," explains Heflin. "There was one kid who made an entire dollhouse, with furniture and a fridge and everything -- out of clay. It was tiny, and it was beautiful."

In an age of video games and E-Pals, the Spokane Art School is a sanctuary without commercial breaks, popup ads or streamers crawling across whatever screen it is you prefer to stare at. And it's clear that children and their artistic abilities are what drives the place.

"Kids can come down here and make a mess," says Heflin, vaguely pointing to years' worth of paint splatter on the floor. She laughs: "You know, I think parents really appreciate that. I mean, people have very different standards for their homes, and some children are not supposed to make a mess at the house. Here, it's more like we expect them to make a mess."

Children can start in classes at Spokane Art School when they are two years old, "but we don't take them without an adult companion until they can go potty by themselves," says Heflin.

Usually, toddlers and their parents start the art journey together exploring different art forms, like clay or paint or drawing, in the Mommy and Me classes.

"It's fun to learn something new, together," says Heflin. Most of the little artistes then head to Art Start, a class about colors, shapes and different materials.

First- to third-graders continue in Primary Art, which deals with line, shape and color.

In the older grades, most children hone in on the skills and materials that they really like.

Every season at the Art School, more than 2,000 kids get their clothes dirty and their fingers brightly stained.

"Most parents send their kids here because they want them to be creative, not necessarily because they want them to be artists when they grow up," says Heflin.

Since there are so many ways the kids can express themselves at the Spokane Art School, which art form they end up choosing really isn't that important.

"It's the creativity," says Heflin. "It's the creativity that is so important in our many different ways of life."

The Children's Museum

This great little museum, located smack in the middle of downtown, has really taken off lately. With Don Kardong of Bloomsday fame as its new leader and a committed staff to run the show, the museum continues to bring in great exhibits and hold interesting workshops.

The current special exhibit is a good example of the kinds of fun you can expect there.

"It's a medical exhibit; it really is a doctor's office," says Stephanie Hofland, the museum's operations manager. "You can look at X-rays and check your heartbeat and things like that. The kids absolutely love it, and no, there are no shots involved."

A new feature is the Stardust Story Times, which begin on Sept. 20 and continue once a month. A special storyteller will show up and read glittery, stardusty stories for young and old.

An October highlight is the visit from Gonzaga University's chemistry department on the 26th.

"They are just a great hit," says Hofland. "No, they don't blow up stuff, but they do all kinds of interesting chemical things."

On Nov. 2, the afternoon is dedicated to the wonders of those little brightly colored Danish building blocks -- the museum owns an extensive Lego collection and promises that no little builder will be disappointed.


The people at Auntie's bookstore continue to put on great story times for the children. Every Saturday there's something exciting going on, either at 11 am or 2 pm.

Ever heard of doggy yoga? Well, local author Charles Swan reads from his book, Nose Does Doggy Yoga, on Sept. 21 at 2 pm.

And of course there's a Halloween story time, on Oct. 26 -- wear your costume and listen to Auntie Violet tell (slightly) scary stories at 11 am.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, you can enjoy music with your books, as KPBX's Kids Concert finds a home at the store for a couple of hours.


At the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, they're planned a couple of family days. Actually, every day is family day at the museum, but on these special occasions the exhibits become a lot more interactive. On Oct. 5, you can get in close contact with the natural history of the Inland Northwest in the exhibit, "Sticks and Stones, Beaks and Whiskers." On Nov. 2, the special feature is "Music is Instrumental" -- it's a great chance to get to know different musical instruments and find out how they work. On Dec. 7, the family day event ties into the Smithsonian exhibit, Art for A Young America -- expect a great time to be had by all.

Bunka no Hi

No, these are not new Pokemon characters. Well, they are Japanese, but the phrase means culture day, and it's the name of the Japanese celebration taking place at Mukogawa Fort Wright on Nov. 5. All events are free on this day (and the week leading up to it). Expect to witness tea ceremonies, listen to Japanese music and hear speeches about Japan and its culture. What can we say? It's a little bit of Asia right here in your own


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