The Columbus Arts Council’s true colors shine through its annual Summer Arts Academy program for children. There, imaginations come alive as campers create a world of their own with nothing more than a crayon and a blank piece of paper.
Originally started in 2014, the academy is open to children aged 5 to 16 who have an interest in the arts. The camp offers four separate sessions — all one-week intervals — for a flat fee of $99 per week. Campers arrive at 8 a.m. and depart at noon Monday through Friday.
Since its inception, the camp has reformatted twice — once in 2019 and again this year, this time under the direction of Director of Operations Salem Gibson. The camp teaches kids about music, drawing, painting and more with the goal of bringing a love of art and creativity to Columbus youth.
“Our importance is that we continue to pursue, learn and educate the culture and arts in our community,” Gibson said. “These are our building blocks and what better way than to start with the young.”
Each week, the Summer Arts Academy offers 25 children a chance to experiment with that week’s program theme. The first week is dedicated to music, the second week to drawing, the third week to music and the last week is to painting.
“Every year, we just try to tweak anything that we notice that we can improve to make sure that we can have the best quality camp that they can offer,” he said.
During the camp, children not only spend their days drawing and painting, but also work through a pre-prepared curriculum in which they study color theory, shading and composition, names of famous artists and more.
“Each week they do a different study, so the first week was musical and this week is visual. We’re going to go into one where we’re going to focus on sculpture and painting,” Gibson said. “I think it’s important for people to know that we’re not a babysitting service. We’re an actual camp that’s teaching these kids. current things about art.”
Alongside the curriculum and arts and crafts activities, children work together each week to create a collective piece of art under a given theme and a guiding hand. Last week, the children painted faces on a guitar; each child painted a specific type of emotion to express how they felt. Once the artwork is complete, it is raffled off on the Arts Council’s Instagram and awarded to a random winner.
“We learn a lot of new things about art at camp. When we do collective pieces, I like to compare what they did to mine just to see how we use different ideas. I love being introduced to new things,” said 13-year-old camper Ben Cooper.
This year Gibson and the Arts Council created a new partnership with the Columbus Housing Authority Summer Enrichment Program that provides educational opportunities and recreational activities for Columbus Housing Authority youth.
Camp Seasons of Columbus offers a variety of activities for campers, such as demonstrations and presentations by the health department, the Columbus Police Department and the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, a campfire, vacation Bible school, skating, karate and the partnership of new with Summer Academy of Arts.
“We knew Salem from the YMCA and had visited the arts council. He was telling us about the camp and we decided to start a partnership so that we could benefit from each other’s programs,” said Vanessa Walker Occupation Specialist and Youth Service Coordinator.
On Tuesday and Thursday, a small group of children will board a bus provided by the Columbus Municipal School District to the Arts Council from 12:30-2:00 p.m. where they will learn about art and engage in fun skills- certain activities. On Wednesdays, Gibson travels to Columbus Seasons to meet with the younger children. The camp is not charged to any of the children who attend by the housing authority.
“We really wanted to make sure we were more in the community and not have people come into our four walls to see us,” Gibson said. “Art has always been a bridge to connect people. I think it’s essential that we continue to invest in our youth and allow every child to have an opportunity to be involved in the arts, no matter what your age or where you’re from.”