Art camp provides outlet for local youth

Michele Mechling instructs Vermillion area youngsters on the method of creating piatas from boxes, construction paper, glue and wire as part of the sculpture class at the fourth annual Messy Hands Art Camp. The camp took place at the Washington Street Art Center and was sponsored in part by the Vermillion Area Arts Council. (Photo by Travis Gulbrandson)

Things are winding down today (Friday) at the fourth annual Messy Hands Art Camp, which is being held at the Washington Street Art Center.

Running from June 27-July 1 and July 4-8, the camp offers local youths aged 3-14 instruction in painting, sculpture, drawing, collage and basic printmaking.

Its essentially an opportunity for school-age children to be introduced to some basic art techniques and art vocabulary, said camp director Susan Heggestad. Its in a sense to help supplement what they are and are not getting in the public schools, because the elementary-level teacher was eliminated some time ago. This is something of an answer to that.

The 3- and 4-year-olds come for an hour in either the morning or the afternoon, while the older students attend a series of 90-minute sessions from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The sessions are given by local artists and students.

As a director, I give my staff a general framework that we like to use, Heggestad said. Essentially, the framework is to look at the elements of art and the principles of design, and within the art field, those are sort of the only thing that everyone would agree on are universal.

We start with a basic idea of what we can do, and modify it for each level (of student), explained USD student and sculpture instructor Tom Dahlseid. Then we go in and see how it is, and change based on whats needed for the class.

The first week of classes saw approximately 50 students in attendance each day, with an average of 35 for the second, Heggestad said.

The kids are great, she said. We have some really hardcore kids that come back every year some that like to come both weeks, even though they do similar activities both weeks. Many of the kids really enjoy art camp because its not like the other activities that are offered to them.

We have a great variety of sporting activities which are great for kids, for sure but theres always that group of kids that need a little more of a creative outlet and a different kind of structure. This has been a good fit for a good number of families, she said.

The instructors say theyre getting as much out of the experience as their students.

Ive never taught at an art camp before, so I was a little hesitant, said assistant painting instructor Dru Daniels. But the kids really seem to like it. Its interesting to see what they get into, because sometimes the thing you think they wont like, they love, and the thing you think theyll love, they dont.

Although she has helped out in other years this is Michele Mechlings second year volunteering with the camp as a full instructor. While she headed the painting class before, she taught sculpture this summer.

Its easier in that you kind of know the schedule and the way it flows, but as far as lessons are concerned we came up with all new lessons this year, she said. Since were not using a kiln to fire clay this year, we came up with other new projects in a lot more media.

Painting was a little easier because 2D you can control a little more than 3D, she said.

Theres always the chance of failure or something breaking off, Dahlseid added.

This is Dahlseids first year with the camp.

Its an adventure, he said. Its hectic, but its fun to see when the kids get into the projects. I like that. Its fun to see when it clicks.

The Messy Hands Art Camp is sponsored by the Vermillion Area Arts Council, with assistance from a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council, as well as help from the United Way, the city of Vermillion, the Vermillion Civic Council and private donors.

For more information, visit www.vermillionareaartscouncil.blogspot.com.

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