By Mark Carpenter
It should be the goal of every parent, educator, and community member to make sure that the present generation of young people grow up as “well-rounded” individuals. For the past six summers, the Adams County Arts Council has made sure that young people in the county have the opportunity for exposure to the “arts” with their annual Summer Arts Camp. This year’s camp was held from July 16-20 at the West Union Elementary School, culminating in a final day program on Friday for parents and guests.
“The opportunity in Adams County for exposure to the arts is better in Adams County than in most southern counties,” says Elaine Lafferty, the camp’s director and a prominent member of the Arts Council. “There’s a stress on athletics everywhere but the arts are alive and well in Adams County, whether it’s visual arts, music, or drama, you can find it in practically all of the county schools. The Arts Council has tried to expand those opportunities through the summers while the kids aren’t in school with the Summer Arts Camp.”
“The Arts Camp was started six years ago by J.R. Bradley and his health did not allow him to continue so I was asked if I could take over this Arts Camp and I have been director for the past five years. We have expanded every year with different media used and the promotion of creative arts and writing. We started silk screening this year, which is something new for us. The whole theme for this year’s camp has been folk art. We’ve had folk music, folk painting, folk sculpture, and folklore.”
“We had 40 kids that applied this year and 38 actually came, which is the largest group we have ever had,” Lafferty added. “If we continue to offer other areas of media, we should get even more kids. There is no fee for the children to attend, thanks to an Arts Council grant and a number of community members who have given donations.”
To expose the children to folk music, each day the speaker system in the WUES cafeteria was filled with tunes from the likes of the Kingston Trio, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives, and even Johnny Cash.
In this year’s camp, the 38 students had the opportunity to study Creative Writing with Margaret Blevins, Silk Screening with Sue Rose, Painting with Karen Cunningham, Drawing with Adam Watkins, Drama with Lee Wilson, and Sculpture with Jessica Huxmann.
Watkins was definitely well-qualified to be the drawing instructor as he has been the writer/illustrator of several children’s books, most notably an alphabet book, “R is for Robot”.
“This is my third year at the camp,” said Watkins. “I realized that over three years I get such a different array of kids and this year my challenge was coming up with a new curriculum every day. These kids took an assignment and finished it in about 20 minutes, so I had to keep challenging them. You have to be flexible but it’s a good thing. I try to emphasize that every drawing doesn’t have to be a masterpiece and making mistakes while you are drawing is normal and good, how you grow as an artist.”
“I have illustrated eight or nine children’s books and I have both written and illustrated three of those, and I am working on a fourth one now. ‘R is for Robot’ was my first and it has been published in hardcover, paperback, and board book editions. The book I am working on now is actually not a robot theme.”
When people in Adams County see Jessica Huxmann, it is usually in the process of saving or rescuing some animal in her role with the Humane Society of Adams County, but for last week she was the “sculpture” lady, working with her students to produce some very impressive marionette puppets.
“This year we used foam left over from some packaging and other recycled items to make our puppets,” said Huxmann. “The kids did a great job with their three hours a day and we finished up at the very last minute. It was a great time and a lot of fun.”
The final day of the camp is always a day for the students to show off their knowledge, and Friday’s program was highlighted by each instructor introducing his/her students, a puppet show telling the story of a king looking for a bride, and then capped off by a drama performance titled “It Could’a Been.” The performance was based on the tall tales of Johnny Appleseed, Sal Fink, and Febold Feboldson. The play featured three separate skits- Johnny Appleseed, Sal Fink, The Mississippi Screamer, and Febold Feboldson of the Great Plains- and featured 20 different young actors and actresses.
Local attorney Roy Gabbert has always been a supporter of the arts in the county, and his daughter Lucy was one of the students in this year’s camp.
“This camp is a wonderful opportunity for our kids,” said Gabbert. “My daughter has been here for four years and each year takes a different discipline. We have a wonderful group of artisans and talented people in this county who like to give back to the community and help our children. This gives them an opportunity over the summer to come in and be structured and show off their amazing talents. I couldn’t be happier with our Arts Council and all the work they have done.”