Columbus Arts Council’s true colors shine through its annual Summer Arts Academy program for kids. There, imagination comes to life as campers create a world of their own with nothing more than a crayon and blank piece of paper.
Originally started in 2014, the academy is open to kids 5 to 16 years of age who have an interest in the arts. The camp offers four separate sessions — all one-week long intervals — with a flat rate of $99 per week. Campers arrive at 8 a.m. and leave at noon Monday through Friday.
Since its inception, the camp has been reformatted twice — once in 2019 and again this year, this time under the guidance of Operations Director Salem Gibson. The camp teaches children about music, drawing, painting and more with the intention of bringing a love of art and creativity to the youth of Columbus.
“Our importance is that we continue to follow, teach and educate culture and art in our community,” Gibson said. “Those are our building blocks and what better way than to start with the youth.”
Each week, Summer Arts Academy offers 25 kids a chance to experiment in that week’s program theme. Week one is dedicated to music, week two to drawing, week three to music and the final week is all about painting.
“Each year, we just try to tweak everything we notice we can improve on to make sure we can have the most high-quality camp they can provide,” he said.
During camp, the kids not only spend their days drawing and painting, but also work through a pre-prepared curriculum in which they study color theory, shading and composition, names of established artists and more.
“Each week they do a different study so the first week was music and this week is visual. We will get into one where we focus on sculpting and painting,” Gibson said. “I think it is important people know we are not a babysitting service. We are an actual camp that is teaching these kids actual things about art.”
Alongside the curriculum and arts and crafts activities, the children work together each week to create a collective art piece under a given theme and guiding hand. Last week, the kids painted faces on a guitar; each child painted a specific kind of emotion to express how they felt. Once the art piece is completed, it is raffled off on the Arts Council Instagram and given to a winner of random choosing.
“We learn a lot of new things about art at camp. When we do collective pieces, I like comparing what they did to mine just to see how we use different ideas. I like being introduced to new things,” 13-year-old camper Ben Cooper said.
This year Gibson and the Arts Council formed a new partnership with the Columbus Housing Authority Summer Enrichment Program that provides educational opportunities and recreational activities to the youth of the Columbus Housing Authority.
Seasons of Columbus camp provides an array of activities for the campers such as demonstrations and presentations from the health department, Columbus Police Department and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, a fire camp, vacation bible school, skating, karate and the new partnership with the Summer Arts Academy.
“We knew Salem from the YMCA and had toured the art council. He was telling us about the camp and we decided to start a partnership so we could benefit each other’s programs,” Occupancy Specialist and Youth Service Coordinator Vanessa Walker said.
On Tuesday and Thursday, a small group of kids will get on a bus provided by the Columbus Municipal School District to go over to the Arts Council from 12:30-2:00 p.m. where they will learn about art and engage in fun skill-set activities. On Wednesday, Gibson travels to the Seasons of Columbus to meet with the younger children. The camp is of no cost to any of the children who attend from the housing authority.
“We really wanted to make sure that we were in the community more and not making people come into our four walls to see us,” Gibson said. “Art has always been a bridge to connect people. I think it is crucial that we continue to invest in our youth and allow every child to have an opportunity to be involved in the arts no matter your age or where you are from.”
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