Story and photos by VANESSA MEUIR
The halls of an elementary school became the walls of an art gallery on Friday, June 25. For two weeks, Shepard Boulevard Elementary School hosted a fine arts camp that ended in a showcase of the students’ artwork and musical talents.
Families swarmed the halls of the school as they marveled at the art projects the students created in the two-week period. Students proudly stood by their displays and explained what inspired their art.
Eabryana Zeller, 10, stood by her work and explained that creating art was a way for her to express her desires.
“I pretty much just always wanted pets, so I decided to make something about pets,” Eabryana said. “I used fabric to make fur balls and cut pictures from magazines of animals.”
Eabryana, a Benton Elementary student, used marbles to represent toy balls and created a litter box out of shreds of paper. She went on to explain that she considers herself an artist, but she has other career goals in mind for the future.
“What I really want to be when I grow up is a dentist and a part-time day care provider,” Eabryana said.
Teachers mingled with the students and families as they greeted parents and praised the artists’ hard work. Jeri Donoho, an art teacher at Shepard, signed up to teach at the camp because she finds it exciting to work with young artists.
“The most rewarding thing about teaching art is just watching their creative expression unfold and seeing them surprise themselves with what they are able to do,” Donoho said. “I love seeing what they come up with. I give them all the same assignment, and I get a hundred different answers. It’s fascinating and amazing.”
Teachers at the camp gave assignments based on the theme of artists who overcame the odds. The students learned about two visual artists, Frida Kahlo and Chuck Close, and two musical artists, Itzhak Perlman and John W. “Blind” Boone.
“We just talked with the kids about obstacles that the artists overcame and how they were able to still achieve their dreams,” Donoho said. “We talked about how the students’ art can help make them happy and can help them overcome obstacles in their lives.”
Students decorated boxes called retablos, inspired by the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The students also made a stained-glass mosaic and, inspired by Chuck Close, painted pictures.
“Chuck Close was stricken with a disability and didn’t have the dexterity of his hands anymore,” Donoho explained. “So he had to tie a brush to his hand to be able to paint. The kids actually had that experience because they strapped a paintbrush to their hands.”
Deborah Jacobs, the coordinator of the camp, addressed the crowd before the performance began. She said 90 students were selected to be invited to the camp from every elementary school in Columbia. Teachers from each school nominated about five students to be invited.
The students applied what they learned from “Blind” Boone and Itzhak Perlman in a performance put on in the gym, in front of an audience of friends and family. The students who participated squirmed in excitement as they waited to perform for their families.
Taylar Nunley, one of the artists, had a big support system at the performance. Her aunt, Denise Eggers, sat in the audience. Taylar and her aunt are a part of a close-knit family, most of whom live on the same street. Taylar’s grandparents, parents, two siblings and her aunt were there to crowd into the gym and watch her performance.
“There’s a bunch of us; we travel in packs!” Eggers said. “We support everything (Taylar) does. Any time she can be creative and do something different, I enjoy being there and so does the rest of the family. We don’t miss out on anything.”
The students performed songs, beat on drums, strummed guitars and danced on stage. The final performance was a song titled “When I Believe in Me,” during which each student announced what they wanted to be when they grow up. Some of the answers were archaeologist, marine biologist and even the president of the United States. One young man proudly stood in front of the microphone and announced that he would find the cure to cancer. As the song ended, so did fine arts camp.
For Donoho, the end of the camp was a melancholy moment.
“I’m going to miss them,” Donoho said. “They’ve been wonderful, and it’s been great getting to know them. They’re so talented, and I’m just so excited to see what they will go on to do.”