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Waterworks art camps help kids expand artistic ability

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Their hands are covered in colorful pastels, smears of watercolor and stained by clay — but each “mess” is a sign of a lesson learned, and time well-spent.

Waterworks Visual Arts Center will have more than 300 students this summer, between the ages of four and 18. Its 30 classes held over five weeks teach plein air watercolor, delicate pastel painting or how to throw and fire a pot. There’s even a class for the center’s youngest students that lets children get down and dirty with paint, cornstarch slime and other projects.

“So we have all kinds of things,” Lizz Johnson, assistant executive director said.

During the year, Waterworks holds classes for adults, those with special needs and partners with schools. But once school lets out, it’s a different story.

“In the summer time, it is devoted to children,” Anne Scott Clement, executive director, said.

For some, the classes offer a chance to build up their library of knowledge and technique.

“I really like to work with pastels,” student Raley Curry said, “And I thought I’d like to expand my horizons.”

In an upstairs studio, Curry blends blue and yellow pastels, trying to recreate a photo of a sky at sunset. She and a group of other students work in focused silence while teacher Phyllis Steimel circles the room, offering quiet whispers of advice.

Clement said that all classes teach the creative process, and instruct students in concepts like line, form, shape and color.

“We want to develop these children to have lifelong skills,” she said.

But aside from that, students can often give free rein to their imagination.

“Nothing is done cookie cutter here,” Clement said.

Some classes, like “messy art” — a class designed for younger students — have been running for more than 30 years.

Students in the messy art class smear paint and work on projects following a specific theme. There are five messy art sessions held throughout the summer, Clement said, but each one has its own unique theme. The week before the Fourth of July, students focused on patriotic art projects. Other themes this summer include farmyards, the ocean and stories.

Outside in a small courtyard, a group of older students practiced outdoor painting, or “plein air” painting. Sitting in a circle on a patch of grass, the students sketched and painted a fountain in the center of the green, shady space.

Young Sonya Rhoades climbed up on a balcony of a nearby building to get a better view of the top of the fountain. Rhoades said she took the watercolor class last year, and had really enjoyed it. But she hadn’t been satisfied with her painting of the fountain. So she signed up for the class again this year.

“I wanted to redo it and make it better,” she said.

The watercolor class is taught by Brett Schenning, of Charlotte. Schenning is an art professor at Limestone College in Gaffney, S.C. But the classes he teaches at Waterworks are very different from his college classes.

“This is a treat to work with this age group,” he said.

This is his third summer teaching at Waterworks, and spending time with younger students over the summer helps him better appreciate his college-aged students during the school year. And after a year of working with college students, he appreciates working with younger children over the summer all the more.

Besides, he said, he loves working with Waterworks each year.

“Everyone’s just so sweet here,” he said.

Clement said that all the teachers, like Schenning, are credentialed.

“We want that experience to be a really fine experience for our students,” she said.

For more information on summer camps visit www.waterworks.org/educationinformation/summerartventures.html

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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