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Art camp fosters creativity and camaraderie

Veteran instructor Carol Jones works with a camper on a textile art project at this year's Art Camp held at The SPACE in New Richmond (Photo by Tom Lindfors)1 / 3
Campers inspect one of the inspiration journals they made at this year's Art Camp (Photo by Tom Lindfors)2 / 3
A young art camper puts the finishing touches on his inspiration journal on opening day of Art Camp (Photo by Tom Lindfors)3 / 3

This summer's Art Camp at The SPACE in New Richmond began with the creation of inspiration journals.

Instructor Julie Griepentrog explained that the journals were to be used to record, "your impressions, ideas, instructions, maybe even assignments from each of the classes you will be attending over the next four days."

Seemed simple enough. What ensued was a perfect storm of chaos and creativity, the kind of experience that is essential to fostering imagination in children.

Art Camp began as a summer program geared toward kids 7 to 14 years old at The SPACE six years ago. The brainchild of The SPACE founder Bill Buell and The SPACE artistic director at the time, Melissa Huber, the mission of Art Camp has been to explore and encourage creativity in kids incorporating a multi-media (artistic) approach.

To present a well rounded picture of a creative individual, this year's camp featured daily classes in basic art taught by Julie Griepentrog, photography taught by Nate Peterson, textile art taught by Carol Jones, culinary arts taught by Rhonda Zontelli and performing arts taught by Melissa Huber.

This year camp evolved into two separate camps, L'll Artists Art Camp, for younger kids ages 3-6, and a second session, Art Camp, for older kids ages 7-12. It's also become a joint venture shared between The SPACE and the New Richmond Area Centre. Larissa Ruud, Youth, Teen and Family Programs manager at the Centre, manages the art camp programs.

"It should be a fun-filled week," she said.

A stack of spiral bound journals were distributed among the 36 aspiring artists. The next 20 minutes was literally a blur as a swarm of hands and arms eagerly decorated the journals.

Griepentrog, who teaches youth enrichment classes at the Centre, planned to focus on teaching different techniques during her classes including making homemade paper from egg cartons and making stained glass.

"What I enjoy most about art is the problem solving," she said. "It makes you independent in that you don't need to rely on others to entertain you, to find your purpose, to tell you who you should be. You learn to figure it out on your own."

After a brief period to reorganize, photographer Nate Peterson introduced himself to the class and announced his plan to lead a field trip just over the river to his studio. After explaining the roll a reflector plays in making photographs better, Peterson turned the class loose to make their own reflectors out of aluminum foil and pocket folders. Their assignment would be to pick a subject, maybe a pet or a sibling, and make several photographs, some using the reflector and some without, to see the difference adding light makes in a good picture.

One of Peterson's goals was to inspire in his young charges the same fascination in the art of photography he experienced as a kid.

"I love teaching and seeing the light bulbs go on especially with kids," he said.

In his second year with the program, Peterson cites "giving back" as the main reason he's involved.

"The SPACE told me it was okay to be an artist and then helped me mature with the necessary skills," he said. "It's really where NP Design was born. I'm forever indebted."

According to Peterson, the best payback is the kids' gratitude and appreciation.