By Collin Brooks
Approximately 21 rising 5th and 6th grade children attended the Appalachian Clay Camp over the past two weeks at Indian Trail Middle School in order to learn how to express themselves using the arts.
The camp is produced in partnership with 21st Century Community Learning Center and Johnson City Schools “ Super Kids” Summer School program. The camp was also sponsored by a private Arts Foundation, local businesses and the Tennessee Arts Commission through it’s Arts Build Communities (ABC) grant program, which allowed the non-profit Art Transforms to provide the camp this year.
Liberty Bell Art Teacher Brooke Velsor led the youth during their two weeks and said that working with a younger crowd was refreshing for her.
“The overarching idea is working with clay to promote self-esteem, creativity and problem solving,” she said.
During the first week of the camp, the students worked on Appalachian face jugs. During the second week of the camp, the kids were to create stories with their clay structures.
Scotty Greene, a Woodland student, said that he enjoyed the camp. He was focused on his detailed clay model of the first time he encountered a snake in the woods, his bright smile effecting his words as he spoke.
“This camp has been a lot of fun,” Greene said. “Because you get to make stuff and I just really enjoy working with clay and making new things.”
Reanna Carder a student that will move into Indian Trail next year said she also enjoys the camp and having the opportunity to build things with clay.
“I have enjoyed it,” she said. “We did the Appalachian Face Jugs and then we got in our sketchbooks and sketched out a story of what was important in our life.”
Carder said that she has worked with clay before and enjoyed the camp and interacting with kids she wouldn’t otherwise meet. She spent her time making her own mock-up of a Dollywood sign, a trip she was recently able to take, and enjoyed.
“It gives you a chance to make what you feel like making and it also gives you a chance to work with clay a lot,” she said.
Brian Mills, Founder of the Appalachian Clay Camp, said he believes allowing children to fully emerge themselves in the medium of clay can help them in their everyday lives.
“Art programs are sorely needed in our community,” Brian Mills, Founder of the Appalachian Clay Camp said. “Art programs strengthen the children in all areas of mental, social and community engagement, which in turn enhances our community.”
He noted that children also learn the historical and cultural significance of their creations.
“We believe that experiences such as these broaden access to the arts for children that may not otherwise have access to such experiences,” he said. “This in turn affects positive change in our community as children reap the benefits of creating art.”
A grant for $1,800 from the Tennessee Arts Commission allowed the camp to occur, which was helped push through the legislator by Representative Matthew Hill.
“(Programs like this) will create new education opportunities for our children,” Hill said in a press release. “They should also improve the quality of life for our hardworking families by providing greater access to the arts.”