By Lofton Wheeles
For the Opelika Observer
The Jan Dempsey Community Arts Center (JDCAC) in Auburn will be hosting summer camps for kids ages four to 18, beginning on June 14 at 222 E. Drake Ave.
City of Auburn Cultural Arts Director Sara Custer is coordinating the camps this year and is excited for what’s in store for the summer.
“These camps were created by Chichi Lovett, a retired Auburn University art education professor,” she said. “As of a few years ago, she was not able to coordinate camps. I took on this role to fulfill her legacy as she coordinated art camps for over 20 years while teaching at Auburn and working with the Auburn Arts Association. Professor Lovett was my mentor in college and I taught at art camps as her student. So, these camps have always been dear to my heart and I strive to provide children with a supportive and inspirational learning environment.”
JDCAC is partnering with the Auburn Area Community Theatre (AACT) to offer a variety of theatre camps this summer.
“Musical theatre camps have been a favorite for children for many years,” Custer said. “They always fill up and these campers shine all week long. [AACT’s] children’s theatre continues to grow along with their students.”
AACT has also brought in more opportunities for local children to express themselves through the art of theatre.
“They’ve added more intensive theatre opportunities that focus on skills and techniques for all different levels,” Custer said. “They even have a camp where young actors produce an entire play where they write lines, design their own set, sketch costume and make up designs and attain props needed for their play. They also offer All Day Arts Experiences, BYO Lunch Break and After Hours Theatre, which bridge morning art camps and afternoon theatre camps to provide children with an all day, visual and performing arts experience.”
JDCAC is also providing camps that cater to those that want to create some magic with a brush.
The campers will learn more about the different kinds of art materials while diving into the history, the different artists, the movements and the culture surrounding art. This, according to the website, will inspire the children to try something new with the materials while learning about art elements and the principles of design.
While the summer camps are bursting with opportunities, COVID has made planning the different programs fairly challenging. However, Custer is ready to get back to serving the community through the arts while doing so in accordance with CDC guidelines.
“I am very grateful to be able to hold camps this summer,” she said. “Summer is my favorite season at the JDCAC. Our arts center is full of energy in the summer and we all really missed having camps last year. We got creative with virtual opportunities, but we missed everyone. Planning during the pandemic has involved a lot of problem solving. We’ve worked hard to make events and programs Covid friendly. We continue to adapt in order to meet CDC and Alabama Deptartment of Public Health guidelines.”
There are several aspects of planning these camps that keep the job fun, however Custer says that there is one thing that stands out to her the most — collaboration.
“Our partnerships with the Auburn Arts Association and Auburn Area Community Theatre are fundamental to our cultural community,” she said. “The arts are essential to a thriving community and these opportunities give cultural access to children, families and citizens.
“I’m also excited Emillie Dombrowski, our new Art Education Specialist, will be coordinating camps with me this summer. She is an experienced art educator and has brought so many inventive ideas to our programming and events. So, I believe it’s going to be a productive and inspiring summer.”
The camps that are offered include:
– Art for Young Children, ages 4 to 6
– Visual Arts Workshops for Children, ages 3 to 12
– After Hours Theater, ages 3 to 12
– AACT Academy Summer Intensive, ages 3 to 18
– AACT Academy Summer “Play”, ages 7 to 12
– BYO Lunch Break, ages 3 to 12.
– Musical Theatre Camp, ages three to 18 (split into four different groups depending on age).
For more information on the summer camps, go to auburnalabama.org/parks/facilities/jan-dempsey-community-center/jdcac-summer-camps or you can email Sara Custer at firstname.lastname@example.org.