Young imaginations flourish at Columbia Association art camp


August 17, 1999|By John J. Snyder | John J. Snyder,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

IT WAS COOKIES and punch -- not pate and Chablis -- at the opening.

The main gallery of the Columbia Association's Art Center overflowed with decorated fabrics and objets d'art. Screen prints covered the walls. Jewelry, origami, ceramics and paper art filled narrow ledges and corners.

Thursday in Long Reach, young artists from the Columbia Association's summer art camp were putting on a show of their work.

An assemblage of the Chesapeake Bay watershed -- constructed out of objects found by a group of youngsters -- was sprawled across a table in the middle of the gallery. Colorful "hot air balloons" with small paper baskets suspended from them floated above the scene.

"Each class gears their projects to different age groups," said instructor Sarada Conaway, explaining the exhibit. "For instance, younger kids can make potato prints, and the older kids will study formal balance in jewelry-making."

By "formal balance," Conaway means the balance of color and shape in a composition.

Conaway, 23, teaches the camp's jewelry class. She has 12 years of experience designing wearable art -- and two years of study at Maryland Institute, College of Art.

Campers are grouped by age into teams named for artistic styles: dadaist, cubist, abstracts, Bauhaus, futurist and expressionist. The teams rotate through classes in jewelry-making, screen-printing, ceramics, paper art and assemblage.

"Construction art lends itself particularly well to children because it requires imagination," said Lisa DiPaula, who teaches the class in assemblage.

DiPaula, who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from Maryland Institute, is also a resident artist in the Oella Mill Studio Complex.

"I look forward to not only inspiring children, but also to be inspired by them," she said.

Counselors trained in child care -- such as Karena Krumhansl, 23, of Owen Brown, an elementary education major at the University of Maryland -- escort the children to the studios and supervise lunch and outdoor recreation periods.

Parents say the program helps encourage their children's interest in the arts.

Alan Lieber brought his son Mitchell, 9, to the camp for the first time this year.

Lieber, a hospital administrator from River Hill, says he is glad he came across the art camp for his son. "He likes to draw," Lieber says, smiling broadly. "He has a modicum of skill and he's having a great time."

Camp director Stephanie Guerin was pleased to hear that. Guerin's goal has been to bring in teachers with established art careers so kids can learn from professionals -- and for everyone to have fun regardless of their proficiency.

"All children possess the ability to be artistic," Guerin says. "It's just a matter of bringing it out."

Guerin, 28, has a bachelor of arts degree in museum studies from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland in Baltimore and has worked at the Walters Art Gallery and the Howard County Arts Council.

Caitlin Littlefield, 10 1/2, was pouring cups of punch for gallery guests while her mother, Jean, looked over the exhibit.

Caitlin had several pieces on display, the largest a silk-screened print of Cartoon Network's Power Puff Girls on a pillowcase.

"I like when we make the paper," Caitlin said. "Aime [instructor Aime Kellner] gives us different colors and shapes and choices to make."

The Glenelg Country School pupil had created masses of tissue-paper flowers and other items, with guidance from Kellner.

Sitting next to Caitlin at the refreshment table was Mandy Sartwell, 12. She was eager to show off her ceramic rendition of two favorite fantasy characters: Meowth, a catlike creature from the Pokemon cartoon series, and Stuart Little, a dapper mouse and hero of the classic children's book by E. B. White -- both perfect to the whiskers.

In the 1970s, the art center building, tucked into a corner of the village shopping plaza, housed a satellite campus of the Antioch College ceramics department. Students of the clay arts benefit from the space and equipment inherited by the Columbia Association when the Antioch program ended.

Two long rows of potter's wheels stand ready in a lower-level studio.

Ceramics teacher Rick Choe, 32, appreciates the resource. "We have better facilities here than I've seen in other community centers," Choe said, as he prepared campers' work to be fired in the kiln.

Rebecca Bafford, 31, is the center's director. The Long Reach resident, who holds a master's degree in ceramics from George Washington University, was in charge of the ceramics program there when she was lured to Columbia by a want ad.

"It seemed like a challenge to transfer skills from a university environment to a community association," she said, explaining her interest in the job. Now she works on developing quality programs and forming partnerships in the community.

The summer art camp is an example of the center's expanding role in the community. "Nine months of the year, the art center is a different species," Bafford said. "Art camp is the focus in the summer."

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