Creative Explosion: First Two Weeks of Art Camp Inspire Students to Unleash their Inner Artist

By KATE SNYDER

Community Arts Center

The first two weeks of Arts Exploration Camp at the Community Arts Center brought daily surprises and nonstop creative fun for more than 50 young art-lovers. The purpose of the camp is to introduce children to a wide variety of artistic genres and mediums with a goal of igniting a creative spark that can lead to a lifelong enjoyment of the arts. 

Ruth Dove and Allison Gardner pose with their artwork during the end-of-camp show for Bookworms Art Camp

Campers at Bookworms Art Camp (June 5-9) expressed themselves via collage art, painting, found object assemblage, oil pastels, creative writing, watercolors, paper-making and drawing. Participants in Rainforest Adventure Camp (June 12-16) explored collage, watercolors, painting, drawing, percussion, singing, found object assemblage, beading and origami — and got up close personal with live reptiles and amphibians.

The themes for the  2017 art camps were designed by outgoing Education Director Maggie Shapiro Haskett, who is relocating to Virginia in July. 

“When setting the theme for camps, I tried to think about what would appeal to a wide range of kids and what would provide us with a flexible structure around which we can build a range of projects. Planning the activities for Bookworms Camp was my final project for the Arts Center and it was such a fun way to wrap up my time with the organization.”

Bookworms Art Camp featured projects and activities inspired by books and famous literary characters. Some projects even used discarded books in the art-making as campers constructed mixed-media skyscrapers by re-purposing old books and created collage bookmarks. A field trip to the Boyle County Public Library introduced campers to the story of “The BFG” by Roald Dahl, and inspired campers to create their own watercolor dream jars. Throughout the week, campers learned the core elements of epic storytelling and took turns developing their own stories.

Campers were also able to transform junk mail into beautiful handmade paper under the direction of guest artist Nancy Martindale. Armed with a blender, a bag of shredded junk mail and screens from the windows of her house, Martindale led campers through the process of creating sheaves of recycled paper which they then used to make greeting cards.

Campers created beetles out of recycled materials and painted them to “camouflage” with the landscape of Weisiger Plaza.

Recycling and re-purposing were themes that carried over into the second week of camp. During Rainforest Adventure Camp, campers created “camouflage bugs” after a lesson on how inhabitants of the rainforest camouflage themselves for protection. Arts Center Creative Director Brandon Long, who uses recycled materials in his own art, designed the basic bug structure out of plastic Easter eggs and electrical wire. Campers assembled their bugs and then painted them to blend in with the landscape of Weisiger Plaza. 

“I had two main goals for this project,” says Long. “I wanted to reinforce the concept that you can make art out of just about anything and I also wanted to introduce our campers to the idea of site-specific art. This is something artists have to consider when creating public art and our campers got to experience that on a small scale.”

Campers also learned about the ecology of the rainforest thanks to the involvement of volunteer Deb Cullen. A recent transplant to Danville, Cullen is the former marketing director of the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago and was eager to share her knowledge of the plants and animals that live in the rainforest. 

Cullen says, “All forms of art embrace nature — music, dance, poetry, visual, gardening, etc. and to have the opportunity to plant new seeds of compassion connecting art with nature was exciting to me. Nature is a good teacher.”

Each week of Arts Exploration Camp culminates in a show for friends and family. Campers carefully display the work created over the week in one of the upstairs galleries and proudly explain its creation to their admiring public. 

“I think it is a good experience for campers to stage their artwork and share it with others,” says interim Executive Director Niki Kinkade. “Having the opportunity to share your work in this way gives the child the chance to shine and be recognized for their hard work and achievements.” 

Megan Dove of Danville, agrees. “My daughter Ruth loved art camp and looked forward all week to her “art show” where she could show off her beautiful work. Her Texas grandparents were in town that week and it was so special for her to share her art in a real art gallery!”

Ruth Dove displays her finished mixed-media landscape featuring skyscrapers made from the pages of discarded books.

There are still four weeks of Arts Exploration Camp ahead later in the summer. For second- through sixth-graders, Fabulous Food Art (July 17-21) will focus on art about — and made from — food while Take Flight (July 24-28) will explore all the variations on flight, from rocket ships to birds to hot air balloons. Middle School Nerd Camp (July 31-Aug. 4) is designed for seventh- through ninth-graders and features projects inspired by science fiction and video games. Mini Camp (August 7 to 11) for kindergarten and 1st graders introduces young artists to a wide range of artistic styles.

ON EXHIBIT 

Expressions in Color — a three-woman group show featuring artwork by Donna Fogacs, Sarah Wiltsee, and Barbara Lockhart, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, suggested donation of $5


COMING UP 

• Beginner Ceramic Workshops — registration is $30 per person, complete online: Ceramic woven basket, 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday; Ceramic wall vases, 10-11:30 a.m. Saturday

• Starry Night Studio: Paisley Fun, 6:30-9:30 p.m. June 28, $35

• Lunch with the Arts: Scott Erbes, noon July 10, $7/door; a special presentation by Erbes, Chief Curator at the Speed Art Museum. 

For more information or to register online: www.communityartscenter.net