Hello everyone! My name is Emily Rader and I am the new Art Department Head for Camp Kalsman. As we hit the halfway point of the summer, I wanted to take some time to explain why it is that I do what I do.
My background is not in art. I went to school for public relations, and my hobbies include things like reading, yoga, and napping. But before this summer at Kalsman I had been running an art program at a different camp in Arizona. You might now wonder, as many of my friends and family members do, how I came to be so involved with summer camp art.
It all began with my own experience at Jewish summer camp. I have never described myself as athletic; I am not particularly adept at throwing, hitting, kicking, running, swimming, etc. Those outdoor activities just weren’t in my skill set. My very first day of camp left me feeling anxious; would I really have to spend the next two weeks running around, sweating under the hot sun, embarrassing myself in front of my peers? Fortunately, day two of camp brought with it the cool and calm of the art room. We made lanyards and friendship bracelets; we sat calmly and quietly; we listened to some music; and we were going to lunch when we were done. Art instantly became my favorite activity at camp, and I eagerly anticipated its appearance on our daily schedule. That love for the calm relief that art brings to us “indoor kids” stayed with me throughout the years, and when I was given the opportunity to work in the art department at another camp four years ago, I was overjoyed.
And now, in the years that I’ve been able to work with and develop a summer camp art program, I’ve come to see that art does more than simply providing an indoor space for indoor kids. During our first session of camp this summer, someone came up to me and told me the following:
“This week I have discovered that I am more artistic than I ever thought!”
The beauty of art is that every new project brings with it the opportunity for campers to discover something new that they can be great at. The common misconception is that if you can’t draw, or sculpt, or paint—if you can’t do one of those things well—then you are not artistic. But I see campers every day who prove how wrong that thinking is. A camper may come to art and find that building a clay mezuzah is incredibly difficult for them, but they have a knack for silk painting. And each new day is a chance to discover a new skill that sets them apart from everyone, that makes them unique and special. And that, the ease with which through art people can discover what makes them different and great, is exactly why this indoor kid chooses to spend her summers covered in paint and glitter glue.
Oh, and did I mention? The quote from above came from a counselor, who spent twenty-one years thinking he had no artistic ability. But then, when he had to create decorations for his cabin, he found that he is actually very skilled with drawing. Instead of making a few signs, he turned his cabin into a magical underwater scene that his campers were able to enjoy all session!
And he was not our only success story from first session. Our campers had the opportunity to try out several new art projects: tie-dying everything from kippot to pillow cases, making clay chamsot, cartooning, hand dipping candles, silk screening, recycled t-shirt bags, Havdalah prayer cards, and origami—and of course lanyards and friendship bracelets.
We had an amazing session, and our campers created a lot of things they should be proud of. As we continue with second and third session, I’m so excited to show a whole new group of campers their own artistic abilities through even more projects!