Art Lab Owensboro melding art with STEM education

Amy Burgan was a full-time fifth-grade teacher for 10 years.

But it wasn’t until she took a long-term substitute position as an art teacher that she was inspired to create a place where children could make high-quality art while also receiving a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.

“I started (Art Lab Owensboro) because I love seeing kids make connections and seeing the light bulb that goes off when teaching them,” she said. “I have a big science background, and technology, so I wanted to do both.”

Art Lab Owensboro, at 1722A Sweeney St., recently celebrated its second anniversary of providing an array of artistic endeavors for children. Art classes offered include painting, drawing, paper maché, clay and textile art (weaving).

“Kids really like to do the clay and paper maché because it’s messy,” Burgan said. “But then when they get (the project) done, it’s not flat, they have an item.”

Burgan also has students involved in 3D projects.

“I have a 3D printing class that I teach kids how to do 3D modeling and convert it into a 3D print file,” she said. “I do robotics. We start out with simple ones, then they learn how to program them to do things.

“I had one group of boys do a Rubik’s Cube solver last summer, and that was pretty phenomenal.”

Burgan offers classes in robotics for different skill levels, which she said are a big hit with the students.

“I wanted them to build a robot for a specific task and it didn’t have a part, so they learned how to design the part and how to print it,” she said. “They learned all about using a caliper to make sure you get your measurements right and how to make a prototype so it will be faster to make sure the fit is right before you spend time doing the whole thing.”

While students are working on an art project, they also learn the background about the subject. The lab hosts a homeschool class that will be creating art related to flamingos next week, and while doing so they’ll learn about the majestic birds.

“I want them to be excited about having worked hard and learned,” Burgan said. “That’s not easy, but they have a blast. They have fun, but they learn about art and the diversity of plants and animals in jungle.”

Art Lab Owensboro offers once-a-week classes in six-week sessions for students ages 5 and up. Classes are 50 minutes and limited to eight students in robotics classes and 12 students in art classes to enhance learning. Sessions are $125.

“School is great, but you don’t have the time to work through the problems like you need for kids to really grow,” said Burgan of the big benefit of additional education. “I want to be able to give each kid the individual attention that they need and be able to say, ‘This is OK, but if you do your paintbrush this way, you’ll get better results.’

“I want them to have the excitement of learning — critical thinking and working together, learning to get ideas from other people, and realizing if I suggest a certain way, they don’t have to take everybody’s suggestion. They can work through it on their own.”

The lab will be hosting weekly camps throughout the summer with different themes, such as a Cats Camp and a Circus Camp. The camps will be from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday. They’re open to students who have finished kindergarten to those who have completed the sixth grade. Each camp costs $135.

The lab will also host a Sweet Dreams Camp from, 6-8 p.m. each Friday in June, with the theme being desserts. Burgan also offers private lessons, and the facility can host art-themed birthday parties.

“I don’t think parents are seeing the value of (our program),” Burgan said. “These are things that give kids life skills that they’re going to be able to use. And just in general, research says America has really fallen behind in the technical skills because we’re not doing it with young kids. So there is significant improvement in all academic areas by doing art.”

For more information about Art Lab Owensboro, including how to register for classes and camps, visit