The summer arts camp at Columbia College has two missions - educate CPS students in the fine and performing arts and help them build relationships that will extend into the coming school year.
Students from Altgeld and Wentworth Elementary Schools are currently attending a two-week arts intensive focused on music, dance, art and theater – a cultural integration experience made possible by the partnership between CPS and Columbia’s Center for Community Arts Partnerships (CCAP).
“The children are very excited to be here,” said Courtney Bell, Manager of School Partnerships for CCAP. “Their energy is way up, and their classes have them very engaged.”
The experience is familiar to students from Wentworth, as CCAP provides them with many after-school classes in the visual and performing arts, as well as specialties such as fashion design and martial arts. But the summer camp is unique, having been created specifically to help these two schools bond.
“This is neutral territory,” said Courtney Bell, “and that takes the pressure off the kids.”
The, 4th-8th graders from both schools are picked up by school buses and brought to Columbia, where they are asked to choose two art forms on which to focus. All classes are taught by the college’s Master Teachers, who are often alumni of Columbia and have been performing in their fields for years. The camp includes one field trip, and will culminate with a performance so that the students can show off what they’ve learned.
“I’m excited to get better at my art skills, like learning how to draw real people,” said a 6th-grader named Zanae. “And in drumming class, I’m learning about instruments I never knew existed.”
Tavarion, a 6th-grader, is also enjoying the camp, particularly his dance class.
“I’ve been dancing since I was a little kid,” he said, “but here, they teach us about the history of dance, too. Like the kinds of dances that were done during slavery.”
The goal of the summer arts camp is to give students from Altgeld and Wentworth a chance to get to know each other, develop leadership skills and engage in team building exercises prior to the start of school. And according to Courtney Bell, the results have been entirely positive.
“It’s truly a collaboration,” she said. “So many of these kids are artists, and it’s been exciting to see them blossom. They’ve been able to show their talents and true personalities, both to their teachers and to each other.”