Artapalooza: Day camp combines hands-on learning, fun and friendship

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Wyandotte residents Audrey Fust (left), 10, and Brigit Tennant (second from right), 9, and Samantha Kerr (right), 9, of Riverview apply glitter glue to their art projects July 26 at Artapalooza Art Camp at Copeland Center in Wyandotte.

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE – Working with messy media – including clay, paint and paper-mache – made Artapalooza art day camp a hands-on hit with elementary-aged artists at Copeland Center in Wyandotte the last week of July.

“We did some really cool stuff, like the leaf we made out of clay,” Caleb Hayden, 8, of Wyandotte said. “It’s a good place to go and learn lots of things.”

Samantha Kerr, 9, of Riverview, agreed that working with paper-mache and clay while creating her own designs was the best part of the program.

“You can have your own design, colors,” Kerr said. “It’s fun, you can meet new kids and have fun doing art together. You can help each other out.”

Donna Hinson, a certified teacher who runs the art camp, said the children love experimenting with different mediums.
“I think they like being able to have some freedom to paint… the way they want to without someone telling them it’s got to be exactly like this,” Hinson said. “A lot of it is experimenting with the mediums.”

Wyandotte’s Department of Recreation, Leisure and Culture offered Artapalooza Art Camp, now in its 11th year, July 23 to 27 at the Copeland Center, 2306 Fourth Street in Wyandotte. In addition to clay and paper-mache the children worked with paint, pencil drawing and three-dimensional sculpture.

Art assistant Dan Mariecki, a para-professional employee for Wyandotte Public Schools who will student-teach art classes at Roosevelt High School this fall, said Artapalooza is a great experience for children to try different projects and experience new things.

“They’ve had a chance to really dive into different projects with the clay and paper-mache stuff so it gives their creativity a chance to explore,” Mariecki said. “A lot of kids actually were hands-on, pushing stuff in, layering stuff… they actually placed on tissue paper and pushed in stamps… it’s all great fun.”

In addition to working with clay, Brenden Michaels, 9, of Wyandotte, thought learning to make a collage, something he had never done before, was the best part of art camp.

Braedan Hopkins, 9, of Wyandotte, said he had fun with nearly every activity during art camp, including making a three-dimensional picture and painting his clay leaf project.

Brigit Tennant, 9, of Wyandotte, said the art projects inspire her to think about how she might use art to earn a living as a both a teacher and a working artist.

For now, though, Tennant enjoys learning new art skills with other children.

“It’s really fun, and you can meet new friends and discover,” Tennant said.

Mariecki said he hopes Artapalooza expands and gets more children taking classes.

“Any kind of experience that kids can get to have art integrated into their life is a great tool for them to help them out in every part of life,” Mariecki said.

Hinson agreed that art helps children develop their learning skills.

“They use a part of their brain… where they get to synthesize everything they know about a lot of different things,” she said. “For instance, art uses a lot of math, it uses science, it uses social studies, every other branch of academics that they’re in.”

She said as students get older art becomes an expression of the world they live in as well as the other things they are learning in school.

“It’s something very unique about being human,” Hinson said. “I think it would be sad not to have art in our lives, or in our children’s lives.” She said children just like having the freedom to be creative.

“I think they like being able to have some freedom to paint… the way they want to without someone telling them it’s got to be exactly like this,” Hinson said. “Experimenting with the mediums… is a lot of fun for them.”

Hinson added that while art camp is a time to try things out for fun, genuine feedback is important.

“We all know when something isn’t right,” she said. “If the kid looks at it and they’re not happy with it… a much better thing to say is, ‘Well, this is how you could have done it to get the result that you wanted.’”

However, she said while serious students want feedback, art camp emphasizes trying things and having fun.

While the Wyandotte Recreation art camps she teaches have ended for the summer, Hinson will teach drawing and painting classes for children as well as a camp using recycled materials and natural supplies throughout August through the Downriver Council for the Arts. For more information, go to