Arts center’s summer of wild discovery
Pigs flew and aliens came to earth, all because of the kids at the Aiken Center for the Arts This Summer Belongs to Us camps made it so.
For five weeks this summer, students got to explore “art across the globe,” create “odd animals,” “discover (their) imagination” and more.
The focal theme is based on a hit Disney cartoon that features two stepbrothers going on adventures with the use of their imaginations, according to Mandy Woodhouse, program manager.
Each week has played upon this theme.
Odd Animals ... Platypus, Monkeys and More!, which took place from July 8 to 12, was a particularly very crowded week.
“We had to move kids around,” Woodhouse said. “So many kids wanted to do the platypuses, monkeys and giraffes – the odd-looking animals.”
Pierre, a mustached platypus, centers as the camp’s mascot.
This year, an overflow camp had to be tacked on.
“We had so many kids on the waiting list,” Woodhouse said on adding the extra week.
To help with all the costs, the community swept in and gave in its support.
It started three weeks before camp started, Woodhouse said.
She posted on Facebook a request for items like paper towels, toilet paper, aluminum cans – “junk.”
The support then rushed in.
Every year, Connie’s Framing and Baker Family Dentistry have made their contributions. This year was no exception.
Members from MOMs Club have paid for their friends’ kids’ registrations without their friends’ knowing. Two of them also paid for their friends’ children’s T-shirts.
Lowe’s donated wood. Allegra Printing donated paper. Cyndi’s Sweet Shop donated bottle caps and bottles.
Aiken Downtown Development Association and Aiken Regional Medical Centers collected supplies for the center, as well as the center getting in constant supplies from random individuals.
Whit Gibbons called one day to say he wanted to give a free wildlife talk during one of the camps.
Only around 40 scholarships have been used versus a normal average of 65, and just about every camper has been able to get a T-shirt.
This is due to people calling, messaging through Facebook or coming in and wanting to sponsor or purchase a T-shirt for a child.
“I didn’t ask for any of this ... I don’t understand,” Woodhouse said. “(But) I’m getting to see the real Aiken ... I couldn’t have asked for more for my first summer art camp as program manager.”
The camps are labeled as fine arts camps.
For this, teachers expose their students to different mediums like clay, painting and drawing.
While the students learn these new crafts, they learn about famous artists, as well.
One artist Joy McKee exposed her students to this summer was Henri Matisse. She taught about Matisse using the artist’s book from “Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists” series.
The teachers then implement what they taught in their lessons towards their crafts that day.
Matisse is easy to teach to younger children, for example, because he tends to cut out shapes for his artwork, Woodhouse said.
Seven teachers rotated amongst the age groups.
Three of those teachers were new, Woodhouse said.
“They are all working really well together. I actually had a few parents whose kids come every year that said the atmosphere feels different, and I’m glad for that,” she said.
Petty has been teaching summer art camps for two years.
A goal of Woodhouse’s was to have the staff to be more of “a family element” this year, and Petty has noticed that it’s certainly been more “upbeat.”
During the year, Petty teaches pottery in addition to being the gallery store manager.
High school-aged students from ACA’s homeschool program and college-age students were brought in to help out with the camps.
Rising eighth grader Alexis Young is one of those students.
As an assistant, she helps the kids with the projects and whatever else is needed.
“I really like working with the little kids. They are so sweet,” she said.
On July 24, she was winding Christine Lawrence’s class down with Katie Westover by reading Alyssa Satin Capucilli’s “Katy Duck is a Caterpillar.”
Young participated as a camper last year.
Down the hall, camper J. Strom Thurmond was learning from McGee perspective by cutting out and arranging birds.
“She taught us how do art by overlapping like artists,” he said. “It was very fun this summer.”
Assisting McGee was Tamara Younca.
Younca’s first teaching interaction at ACA was assisting during this year’s spring break.
This summer, she taught and assisted with the camps.
Assisting helps “to get the basic ground rules of where everything is” and some little techniques.
“It’s been really awesome (here),” she said. “It’s like the only thing I’ve really ever wanted to do with my life.”
The Summer Camp Art Show exhibit will be on display until Aug. 24.
For more information, visit www.aikencenterforthearts.org or call 803-641-9094.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.