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More Than Art Camp

Elba non-profit Restoration 154 hosted an art camp for elementary school kids leading up to the annual Rockin’ the River celebration. Children were invited to participate in several activities from 9 a.m. to noon the week of July 23. Activities included playing musical instruments, making crafts, and acting on stage.

Emily Hoppe, a music and theater instructor, led the event with the help of performance arts educator, Rush Brunson, and Tyra Bradley, an experienced volunteer. 

“We started every morning with some singing and playing instruments. Then, after snack time, we spent the rest of the time with their arts and crafts,” Hoppe explained. 

The art camp includes the musical, performing, and visual arts. “This camp, you know, is sort of everything,” said Brunson. “It’s all the arts,” he added.

On the morning of Rockin’ the River, the children also performed a short play about pirates and mermaids fighting for treasure. “We performed a show the children wrote,” Brunson said. “We let them write, and we let them pick the plot.” 

Brunson and Hoppe explained the three basic elements of a story to give their students the tools to fashion their own story. “They get to pick who the people are, where they are, and what the problem is,” Brunson stated.

Camps like this are hosted to enable children to explore their imagination and are instrumental in helping them find a personal and/or work-related passion. “I think it is very important for kids to explore their creativity and imagination,” Brunson noted. 

“No matter what you’re planning on doing with your life, it’s very important to be able to think outside of the box and come up with ways to solve problems,” he added.  “It also helps kids discover what their strengths and weaknesses are.” 

From a young age, Brunson discovered his talents by participating in similar art camps. “Because of school and stuff like this, I discovered that I hated and was terrible at drawing,” he recalled. On the other hand, it also helped him locate what became his choice of study and eventual career. 

“I was, even as a little kid, way more comfortable memorizing lines and saying things in front of people,” Brunson elaborated.

Hoppe also provided a passionate argument in support of arts education. “The arts are so important,” she said. “They’re forming neuro pathways. That’s like the very basis of humanity.” 

Arts can serve as tool for self-expression, as a means of coping with difficult situations, or to unite with others.

“Singing is an incredible tool for children of all walks of life, whether they are hurting and need something from it, or maybe just to express themselves or just to connect with each other or someone outside their community,” Hoppe explained.

However, the arts do not only enrich life through emotional and cultural means. Hoppe stated the arts also have “practical applications” like promoting confidence through the performance arts and teaching fine motor skills when creating visual art.

Although, the arts can be “ignored” in schools, as Brunson stated, the Rockin’ the River art camp helped fill the gap. 

Shardae Reed, a local parent, stated the art camp “would be good for the children since they never had an art camp before, only a regular summer camp.” In contrast to traditional lecture-based teaching methods, the art camp gave kids “a chance to explore what’s on their mind,” she said. 

The efforts of Laurie Chapman, the director for Rockin’ the River and executive director of the New Brockton and Elba Housing Authority, made it possible for any child to participate. Those who may not have been able to afford typical art camps could participate since their fee was waived. 

Art is a subject worthy of equal attention to other school subjects, since it teaches young minds to think for themselves and serves as common language between all people despite external differences, the art camp directors agreed.

Tags: Elba

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