By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jun 11, 2014 at 11:16 AM

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When it comes to the arts, Cheryl Huffman is a renaissance woman.

Huffman has spent much of her life studying the arts, eventually focusing on dance for a career. Over time, she’s worked at a number of dance companies and schools, honing her abilities across ballet, jazz, modern, tap and ballroom, while also sharing that passion by teaching others. She’s dabbled in many other arts, too, writing and recording a CD while also taking time to paint and draw. Huffman’s life has been fueled by the arts, and it all started for Huffman years ago when she was just 11 years old.

"I attended Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts, and what was awesome about that program at the time was that we were allowed – actually required – to study all of the art forms," Huffman recalled. "For sixth and seventh grade, we did art, dance, music and theater, and then by eighth grade, we had to pick a major. I was torn between art and dance, but I chose dance as my major."

The experience and education not only gave Huffman a career, but also gave her a love for the arts that’s stayed strong over the years. And now, in a time when many schools are having to shrink their arts offerings, Huffman would like to help pass on that experience to a new generation of kids with the Indigo Creative Arts Studio, a new arts establishment opening this month in Market Place Village, at the corner of Highway 32 and Puetz Road.

The studio, which held its grand opening celebration earlier this month, will begin its maiden round of summer camps and classes starting Monday, June 23. In the main camps, kids ages 3 to 12 can take three weeks to learn about integrated arts, including painting, musical theater, yoga, drawing, dancing and music. Huffman also noted that art history will be a part of the classes as well, educating kids about famous painters, artists, dancers and choreographers.

The Indigo Creative Arts Studio also offers nine-week ballet and guitar lessons, with hopefully piano lessons coming soon as well. The goal is not just to teach an instrument, but to hopefully help its young students’ minds and hearts grow in a positive direction.

"I feel that children grow in both intellectual ability and self-esteem when they learn and participate in the arts," Huffman said.

The idea for the Indigo Creative Arts Studio came to Huffman as she looked back at her own life, reflecting on the many artistic endeavors that have filled it.

"I thought why not start a program that would allow children to experience the joy of learning various art forms," Huffman said. "This idea has actually been in the works for a long time; it was just a matter of finding the right space."

She eventually found that right space for her fledgling arts studio out in Oak Creek. She gave the vacant space, located at 8625 S. Market Pl., a look in late February and early March, but she was a little hesitant to go after it considering the quick turnaround necessary to have the space, the curriculum and the promotional materials ready for summer camps and classes. After some thought, however, she decided just to "dive in" now rather than hold off and keep her project on ice for yet another year.

Huffman’s choice to simply dive in earlier this year was driven not only by her desire to teach and share the arts with others. For her, opening the Indigo Creative Arts Studio was also out of a deep cultural concern for today’s children, obsessed with technology, overwhelmed by unhealthy food options and increasingly diagnosed with adolescent diabetes, childhood obesity and other troubling ailments.

"I’ve worked with children for years, and I feel like all many children are doing nowadays is playing video games, and eating candy and lots of processed foods," Huffman said. "I just feel like if parents would get their children more involved in a program that would spark their imaginations and get their bodies moving – maybe some dance classes – I think maybe their attention would shift a little bit, and maybe they would focus more on the arts, even when they’re at home."

The Indigo Creative Arts Studio starts up its initial classes shortly, with the hopes of developing happy, healthy kids excited about the arts – or, considering the impending dog days of summer, at least excited to get out of the heat. 

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.