TUSCUMBIA — Childhood is an essential time to nurture certain skillsets and encourage creativity — a sentiment at the heart of the Tennessee Valley Art Association’s annual art camp for students.
This week, students have been exploring art through a variety of mediums.
Students in grades third through sixth spend each day practicing different techniques and learning about artistic value in different cultures through four classes — Printmakers Place, Art Around the World, Funky Folk Art and Express and Impress.
Outgoing TVAA Director Mary Settle Cooney said they use high-quality teachers to give art campers the best experience possible.
“This is one of my favorite activities throughout the year because what we have in our art camp are children who love to create, and these teachers empower them to do that,” she said. “You can just see their little minds open up that creative side of the brain. It has another wrinkle in it, and they just have learned so much.”
According to Provi Musso, who has taught art for about 35 years, Wednesday’s folk class consisted of the children painting their own versions of a Santa piece by Montgomery folk artist Mose Tolliver, a project she chose in the spirit of “Christmas in July.”
The art campers also painted old 7-inch vinyl records and turned them into flowers.
While some students sat hunched in concentration as they painstakingly shaded the backgrounds of their Santa paintings, others opted to go with the flow as they gave their record flowers a rainbow of petals.
“I enjoy seeing their creativity spark,” Musso said. “I give them guidelines then kind of let them go. I don’t think they get to do this that much … so it’s fun to be able to do it with them.
“They all get into it one way or another,” she added with a laugh.
Museum Curator Mollie Schaefer-Thompson said she enjoyed seeing what each student decided to portray in their work. Some handmade stamps reflected an interest in dinosaurs, while miniature clay masks ranged from wolves to humans.
After a short break, the children picked up their paintbrushes to continue a landscape on canvas under the direction of Wesley Hooper, an art teacher at Cherokee High School.
Hooper said he tries to teach the campers more art terminology as part of his class on expressionism and impressionism.
“I think that’s important as far as expanding vocabulary with art, but more or less, I just want them to have fun,” he said.
Down the hall, students in grades seventh to 12th applied some of those foundational art skills.
Carpenter, who studied under Ethel Davis in her youth, said she works with art camp every year and helps students hone their skills in portraits and still life.
Cooney marveled at the charcoal drawings that lined the walls inside the museum’s gallery space after the students left Wednesday.
“I always credit the teacher,” she added. “It is the teacher who helps those children find out who they are and what those gifts are, as well as the parents who recognize they need this advanced study, and that’s what this camp is.”
Cooney said she also enjoys seeing how the campers bond over their shared interest in art as they learn skills that will help them later in life.
“They have an appreciation for one another’s art, and they bond in a special way as they’ve developed this skill that they all have in common,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”