Summer Arts Camp lets kids shine –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
“I had so much fun.”
Emma Napier’s eyes light up when she talks about her week-long experience at Summer Arts Camp. “I’ve been coming here since it started,” she says. “And I like acting best, because I’m not very good at drawing.”
Her younger sister, Jayce shares Emma’s enthusiasm, “I just love it,” she says. Both girls say they plan to return next year.
That’s exactly the reaction members of the Adams County Arts Council hope to hear.
“It’s wonderful to see the kids get excited about creativity,” says Elaine Lafferty, the camp’s director. “We’re in our fourth year, and we have many students who return year after year.”
Launched in 2012 by local artist J.R. Bradley, the Summer Arts Camp provides arts education at no cost to young people, ages 9 – 14, across Adams County.
This year 28 campers spent a week exploring and developing their creativity through the arts. Each day, they participated in activities designed to nurture their talents, and as they learned arts skills, they also developed life skills: confidence, self-expression, and creativity.
Some programs focused on visual arts, some on performing arts,but all shared the common goal of helping kids grow.
Each camper chose one of five creative venues to participate in for the entire week: Drawing, taught by author and illustrator, Adam Watkins; Water Color Painting taught by award-winning artist JoAnn White; Sculpture taught by Mike Roberts; Music and Theater taught by West Union High School chorus teacher, Neil DeAtley.
“We have so many talented people in this county, and it’s wonderful they’re willing to give their time to these children,” said Lafferty, who taught Art Appreciation at the end of each day’s session. Focusing on artists who worked in fields corresponding to those being studied by the campers, Lafferty gave presentations on watercolor artist, P. Buckley Moss, composer John Williams, illustrator C.F. Payne, and sculptor and architect Maya Lin (designer of the Vietnam Wall Memorial).
Family and friends attended the camp’s “Show and Tell” exhibition on Friday, July 22, showcasing the campers’ artwork as well as a play and musical performances by the music and theater participants.
Kathleen Young, whose daughter Aylee attended the camp, thought the week was a very positive experience. “I think this camp is very important,” she said. “We need art and music camp for kids who are gifted in those areas.”
Local attorney Roy Gabbert agreed. “My daughter is 12 years old, and I want her to have something interesting and productive to do during the summer, and the art camp provides that for her,” said Gebbert. “It’s a wonderful thing the Arts Council provides, it makes me feel very good about our community and very pleased the opportunity is available. It’s quite an endeavor and they’ve pulled it off successfully.”
Art Council members, Betsy Miskell, Sally White, and Paulette Roberts provided food and refreshments for the campers throughout the week. Miskall, who retired from the Cincinnati Public Library before moving to Adams County, believes art is an essential element in childhood education. “This summer camp is so important because from an early age children need to be exposed to art and participate in it,” she said. “It helps round out their education – sports, knowledge and the arts all intertwine.”
Many studies have shown that arts education creates a bridge between learning in school and putting what is learned to use in the real world. According to James Catterall, a retired UCLA education professor, “Art is a way of thinking, it encourages asking questions, it encourages taking some risks, and it encourages collaborative work.”
Students at schools with dynamic art programs consistently perform better in nearly every area. According to a report from the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, schools with strong art programs have higher attendance rates, higher morale, and higher test scores than schools with weaker art programs.
Additionally, statistics show that low-income students attending arts-rich schools are twice as likely to attend four-year colleges or universities, compared with low-income students at schools without much art. They were three times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree, and were less likely to drop out. They were also more involved in sports, clubs, and volunteer work.
“Almost all kids start out liking art, they like coloring and scribbling,” said the camp’s drawing instructor, Adam Watkins. “But at some point, when they start to feel they’re not good, they’ll quit, but I think it’s important to know that it’s not about being good, it’s about self expression. It’s about having an outlet where you can be creative, and no one needs to see it. It’s healthy.”