Out East End: Aaron Goldschmidt, Shine Camp Founder & Director

Aaron Goldschmidt of Shine Hamptons
Aaron Goldschmidt

Shine. It’s such a happy word. And for those familiar with Shine pop-up classes, private parties and creative camp for kids, the name fits — especially after speaking with its exuberant and dedicated founder and director Aaron Goldschmidt.

“I always wanted to have a kids’ business called ‘Shine,’ and there’s a whole philosophy behind that,” says Goldschmidt. “Within every child is a light, and our job is to help them shine.”

This summer will mark the ninth season of Shine Hamptons camp. Not only has Goldschmidt created and brought Shine NYC out east — the primarily mobile, pop-up arts-based business has been offering small, customized classes, parties and creative camp options for children ages 6 months to 12 years old since 2004 — but he has deepened Shine’s roots on the East End by investing in a permanent space: Shine Studio in Bridgehampton.

Shine Studio, located on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike (previously home to The Rainbow School preschool), opened softly and quietly this past fall, as Goldschmidt put finishing touches on renovations to the space. It boasts three large indoor studios, an outdoor play area with a classroom and a stage and direct access to the Long Pond Greenbelt trails.

The Shine Studio playground
The Shine Studio playground

The new studio space means Shine Hamptons now has a home base; the move also signals Goldschmidt’s commitment to having a year-round presence out east and enhances his original vision for Shine Hamptons.

“In 2012, when I first started coming out here, I saw a real need for the kind of programming that I create out here,” explains Goldschmidt, who lives in Sag Harbor.

“At the time, there weren’t a lot of small camps and your only camp options were the three big ones. … There was nothing that spoke to a different kind of kid, someone that wanted a smaller program … a more intimate experience — and I really wanted to start that,” he explains.

His philosophy and execution seem to be working.

“Shine has grown over the years — every year it gets bigger and more popular — but we kind of keep it on the ‘DL’ because I only take 30, up to 40 kids,” Goldschmidt says, adding, “It’s not a huge camp. We don’t bus kids around, that’s not really our vibe, but we really tap into what I love most about the East End.”

Tapping into the local flora, fauna, the history, the art, artists and “all the craftsmanship that comes out of the East End of Long Island” matters to him and factors into the programming.

A typical day at Shine involves art, arts and crafts and nature exploraton. On Tuesdays, Goldschmidt brings in arts specialists. The Wednesday workshops feature a local artisan. Field trips to the South Fork Natural History Museum offer studies and walks specific to the East End, he says.

“This past summer, we made some movies, we brought in a filmmaker — we spent the day shooting a movie at LongHouse which was really cool,” notes Goldschmidt. “We also give kids a chance if they just want to sit around to make bracelets for four hours, that’s cool, too — because it’s summer and camp. We want kids to feel like they can make some choices.”

Shine camp runs nine weeks (July 5–September 2), and though you can register anywhere from one–five days a week and one–nine weeks, Goldschmidt says he tries to build in a little bit of flexibility and concierge-type scheduling.

Inside Shine Studio
Inside Shine Studio

“Not every kid wants to go five days; not every parent wants to send their kids to camp five days a week, and we try to give people the option of creating a schedule that works best for their families … and that’s what makes us a little bit different, too, being off the radar,” says Goldschmidt.

He credits his theater background and ensemble-based acting training (Goldschmidt graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts with a major in acting and a minor in child psychology) for helping him to creatively pivot his business during tough times.

“I feel very fortunate. … I’m a small business owner and it’s very scary during the pandemic. But I will say that people with kids always need something for their kids. It’s a business that will exist because people will do whatever they can for their children.”

With the new Shine Studio space, he can offer Saturday classes, holiday, winter and spring break camps and year-round classes to a growing clientele of families spending more time, or relocating, out east. He says the summer camp will operate three days a week from Shine Studio, one day a week from LongHouse (“I have a great relationship with them and it’s awesome to be there for a full day of camp”), and one day for a field trip.

Ask Goldschmidt what the most satisfying part of his job is, and his voice literally lights up with enthusiasm.

“I love it when I see that I’ve actively helped build up a kid’s self-esteem and competence. … I love when I see a kid who was resistant to something at first completely kind of do a 180 and get into something because of how we have been able to set it up and relate to that kid. I love it when the kid teaches me something about the world or myself. I just love my work with kids, and if I could do that all day, every day, I would be the happiest person in the world.”

Shine Hamptons is located at 977 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike, Bridgehampton. For more info about classes and Hamptons summer camp, visit shinenyc.net or call 212-414-5427.

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