Kaleidoscope camp remains colorful after 20 years

‘Oompa Loompas’ pass ‘candy balls’ to each other Friday in the Willy Wonka-themed finale of the Arts Clayton Kaleidoscope Summer Arts Camp.

‘Oompa Loompas’ pass ‘candy balls’ to each other Friday in the Willy Wonka-themed finale of the Arts Clayton Kaleidoscope Summer Arts Camp.

— Linda Kirchner said credit for naming Arts Clayton’s Kaleidoscope Summer Art Camp 20 years ago belongs to Anne McCranie.

Arts Clayton was getting ready to launch a new summer camp for elementary school students where they could learn about painting, singing and dancing. Although Kirchner was the camp’s director, McCranie was the group’s director at the time and that gave her the right to have some input in the new enterprise.

And so the recommendation was made to give it a name that alluded to the various artistic outlets that would be offered at the camp. Kirchner said McCranie’s suggestion was fitting.

“In a Kaleidoscope, you see all of the colors and this gives the children a sampling of all of the arts – the musical, the visual and the performing,” said Kirchner. “We don’t let them just come and paint.”


Curt Yeomans

Arts Clayton and Clayton County officials gathered Friday to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Kaleidoscope Summer Arts Camp before the camp’s Willy Wonka-themed finale.


Curt Yeomans

Katie Johnson of Jonesboro (r) shows Kaleidoscope campers an ‘everlasting gobstopper’ during the camp’s Willy Wonka-themed finale Friday.

The 20th anniversary of the Kaleidoscope Summer Art Camp was celebrated Friday before the finale performance was given by this year’s crop of campers.

Arts Clayton officials presented Kirchner and McCranie with long, white boxes of flowers tied with bright red ribbons. Clayton County commissioners also presented a proclamation to Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin in recognition of the anniversary.

In the proclamation, Chairman Jeff Turner said the commission commended the arts group’s leaders for their “continued efforts in providing outstanding arts resources” to residents of the county.

“Clayton County is proud to recognize the efforts and achievements of the Kaleidoscope Summer Art Camp through Arts Clayton and celebrates 20 years of art experience,” said Turner as he read the proclamation.

The 100 children enrolled in this year’s camp then took center stage and performed a shortened version of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” The children wore alternating colors of red, yellow, purple, blue and green shirts that made them resemble a collection of gumballs. Some kids wore beanies to show they were the “Oompa Loompas.” The stage was filled with candy-shaped props.

But while Friday was a time to celebrate the camp’s 20th birthday, the real story of Kaleidoscope may be how it has changed over the years.

“It’s just grown, and grown and grown,” said McCranie.

Kirchner said the camp was originally held at Jonesboro First United Methodist Church for its first four years, but she had to eventually move it to the county’s schools.

“We got too big for the classrooms at the church,” said Kirchner. She said the camp was held in College Park, Forest Park, Morrow and Riverdale at varying times in its past. For the last several years, however, it has been held at schools in Jonesboro. James A. Jackson Elementary School, which has a school for the arts, hosted it the last two years.

And the camp program has continued to grow through out that time. Former camp Director Sarah Cookson established a middle school counterpart — the Young Teen Camp — seven years.

The camps have been held together since then, but the teen camp started to get its own art exhibit last year. This year, it got its own theme and finale performance that was held the night before Kaleidoscope’s finale.

Last year, camp organizers also began choosing musicals for the finale performances. While the elementary school students got to play in candy land, the teens sank their teeth into “The Wizard of Oz” and “Wicked.”

Current camp Director Elizabeth Gower said the growth means the camps may see further separation in the future. This was the first year the Kaleidoscope and teen camps filled all of the slots they were planned to have, she said, and the idea of holding them at separate locations is being considered for next year.

“That’s our goal for next year,” said Gower. “It will allow us to have a much bigger atmosphere at both camps and it will let the teens have a bit more space to go off and do their own thing.”

Kirchner said the camp will have no problem attracting large numbers of children and teenagers in the future to justify separate locations. There is a need for arts programming in the county, and the camps have proven themselves to be quality draws for parents seeking summertime activities for their children, she said.

“It’s gotten quite a reputation and people always want to know, ‘When is it and where do I sign up,’” said Kirchner.