Summer camping for children -- always a time for new experiences -- often becomes an opportunity to tap into previously unrecognized talent.
As school systems react to budget cuts, many of them discarding music and art curricula especially for younger children, Episcopal diocesan and parish day camps are helping to fill that void.
At the Barbara C. Harris Camp and Conference Center, artist-in-residence Erin McGee Ferrell led a week-long art class for 125 boys and girls from the Diocese of Massachusetts, crafting fish from metal wire and parchment paper, then decorating them with colored tissue paper, wooden beads, plastic colored wire and glitter glue jell and then assembling them in mobiles to be hung from the 40-foot-high ceiling of the conference center's multi-purpose meeting room.
Using gift of creation
"The overall theme for the week was 'creation' and so the counselors worked the daily Bible study into the project," said McGee Ferrell of Moorestown, New Jersey, who paints in oils and watercolors. "Campers learned that God created us and found that through their talents that they too had the ability to create.
"When we brought all these individual, uniquely created fish together and tied them to fishing line and then hung them from the ceiling, it was such a 'wow' experience," she said. "They learned that no two creations are the same and discovered, just as in the story of creation, that the sum of all is so much better than the individual."
In the heart of the Diocese of North Carolina, city children from Lexington attended a day camp at Grace Episcopal Church, many experiencing for the first time the power of music and art in their lives.
It was the third year for the Arts Discovery day camp, initiated by the Rev. Bonnie Duckworth, which has involved the participation of seven other churches and community groups. She also led another group of churches to sponsor a similar camp for county children.
A deacon at Grace and a composer of music, Duckworth said two-thirds of the camp enrolment is reserved for students with academic challenges, difficult family situations or who need the support of a mentor and would not normally be exposed to music and art.
During the weeklong camp, participants were able to model clay, play piano, guitar or violin, and for the first time this year join drama and dance classes, all led by professional musicians and actors. "All children take visual arts," she explained, "then choose from the list two others that they want."
Duckworth says her own passion is music. "It feeds the soul and we are offering it at a time when many schools are not. My belief about this is the connection between arts and the inner spirit … it so much touches that area of our life that is neglected.'