Windham Foundation » Enhancing Windham and the Mountaintop through Education, Recreation and the Arts

Sugar Maples Art Explorers

Painting on Canvas

Art Explorers–Cultivating Creativity

The Art Explorer Program offered at the Sugar Maples Center for Creative Arts, located in Maplecrest is both educational and fun. Now in its 20th year, the program teaches children basic forms of art and encourages creativity. The Windham Foundation, in collaboration with the Catskill Mountain Foundation, provided funding and scholarships for local children to attend.

Art Explorers ran for three weeks in July and August and was attended by 70 children ages 5 – 14. This year’s theme was Birds, Bugs, and Bears. Each morning started with studio experience, followed by activities in nature. Working together in teams, the kids hunted for acorns, feathers, twigs, and pinecones to create works of art. They focused on painting and drawing, papermaking, pottery and making slime.

“Sugar Maples is the perfect setting for kids to learn how to connect with nature,” said Windham Foundation board member Phyllis Parrish. “Education is key to each child’s development and core to our mission as a Foundation.”

Educator extraordinaire, Rita Mary Vining, was the creator of Art Explorers. Rita Mary, known locally as “the child Whisperer” had a special gift for teaching children. Her gift inspired young artists, instilled confidence in each child and taught kids to be kind and respectful.

In 2023, the baton was handed over to artist educator Florencia Loda.  Florencia loves planting seeds of curiosity and creativity. Similar to Maria Montessori’s philosophy that “Play is the work of the child” Florencia encourages skill development while at play.

Former Art Explorers alumni Isabella Pedrick and Lillian Gracia assisted with the summer program. They were all smiles as each talked about the difference Art Explorers had made for them as former participants.

At the close of each week kids talked about how much fun they had, the new friends they made, and how they looked forward to coming back next year.

If you would like more information about Art Explorers, contact the Catskill Mountain Foundation at (518) 263-2001 or by going to the sign up link at to receive updates on the Art Explorers program.


Established as a non-profit in 2004, the Windham Foundation is committed to inspiring lives and enriching our community through funding for education, recreation, the arts, and community initiatives.  Since 2004, they have contributed over $4.5 MM to preserve and enhance the Windham community. To learn more, and, or to donate, please visit our website at


Painting Picnic