By Joel Hall
While school is out at Lee Street Elementary, students around the Southern Crescent, from pre-kindergarten to high school, are getting an education in the arts there for the next two weeks.
The 15th annual Kaleidoscope Arts Camp and the fourth annual Young Teen Camp -- both coordinated by Arts Clayton -- started on Monday in Jonesboro.
Local teachers and national leaders in the fields of painting, animation, and acting will spend the next several days developing the talents of young artists and showing that they can make a living from their talents as well.
Felicia Franklin-Warner, director of the Arts Clayton Summer Art Camp program, said the program takes like-minded students and puts them in an environment nurturing to their gifts.
"The key to success with children is finding their niche," said Franklin-Warner. "Once you find that, you can keep them involved. If you don't find something for kids that interests them, they will find something to do," that isn't necessarily positive, she said.
In one room, students practiced acting out different emotions and situations, such as freezing from the cold, or being a flight attendant. In another room, students sketched characters which will eventually be designed into stop-animation models and used in short films.
Others learned how to illustrate children's books with characters from their own imagination.
While other rooms are reserved for digital photography, painting, drawing, and cartooning classes, there are also classes for performing arts, such as theater, singing, dance, and instrumental music. In addition this year, Arts Clayton is doing a test run of its "Wee Camp" for pre-kindergarten children, in which students are introduced to colors, music, and different artistic games.
On the last day of the camp, all of the students will take what they have learned and participate in "The Big Bad Musical," a courtroom comedy in which the Big Bad Wolf is slapped with a class-action lawsuit. In conjunction with the play, parents will be able to see their children's artwork and short movies on display in a gallery-style art exhibit.
Atlanta native and celebrated children's book illustrator, Michael P. White, came to the camp on Monday as a guest artist and speaker. White said that camps such as the ones run by Arts Clayton were what inspired him to become an artist.
"I remember going to Chastain Camp as a kid in 1962," said White. "All along the way, somebody has supported my art." The camp is "massively important because it shows them a talent that they may have not known they had.
"The kids come back with the first drawing and don't think that they can do this, but by the second or third drawing, they are right there ahead of me," said White. "Forty years later ... this may be the summer camp they remember that launched their career as an artist."
Sara Cookson, program and events coordinator for Arts Clayton, said the response to this year's summer art camps has been excellent and that several students are on a waiting list.
"We have pretty much had a full house all around," said Cookson. The camp "gives kids the opportunity to try news things ... and to learn that arts are simply not just pencil and paper. Hopefully we're going to light a lot of sparks, who are going to seek further instruction."