BY COLLETTE CAPRARA

FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR

There certainly won't be any "starving artists" at Gari Melchers' Belmont studio next week. In fact, young aspiring painters will have their tummies full of delightful delectables, in every color of the rainbow, as they participate in the fun-filled Edible Color Wheel program.

"The children will be using primary colors that just happen to be made of icing rather than paint," explained education coordinator Michelle Dolby. "They will be combining those to create all the other hues on a color wheel and will spread each on a vanilla wafer and arrange them in a circle.

"In the process, they'll be learning abut color mixing and about primary, secondary and complementary colors. There's a certain magic when they start mixing colors: Right before their eyes, they'll see that they can make orange or green or purple."

The workshop next Tuesday will be offered for preschool children with a parent or grandparent, while Wednesday's session will be designed for children ages 5 through 7.

"Since color is one of the main elements of composition, the program is a nice building block for children to learn about art," said Dolby.

In preparation for next week's activities, Dolby reviewed photos from the first time she offered this workshop several years ago. "It was really cute! All the kids are looking up at me and somewhere on their face, inevitably, will be a little bit of frosting," she said.

"We try to keep finger-licking to a minimum until they're finished with the color wheel. But then they get to eat it all!"

In addition to experimenting with the color wheel, workshop participants will also have an opportunity to explore the Melchers house and studio at Belmont, and the activities incorporated in this summer's family tours.

Families can use objects from an activity basket to highlight different sites on the tour, and children are welcomed to participate in the Itty Bitty Belmont scavenger hunt--or to sketch on the grounds.

For an introduction to the estate prior to the program, parents may want to help their children access Web products online. These include a children's orientation video and downloadable coloring pages with drawings of paintings by Melchers, and various structures at Belmont.

In addition, children who are fans of letterboxing can download clues to discover Belmont's own letterbox at letterboxing.org--and may want to come equipped with their signature stamp and record book.

"Families can make a whole morning of their visit," said Dolby. "They could even bring a lunch and picnic on the grounds. It's a great, inexpensive way to spend a morning together and experience a local treasure."

Collette Caprara is a local artist and freelance writer.

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