2006-08-18 / Community

From The Artists Studio

What Makes Camp KidsmArt So Special?
Rockaway Artists Alliance by Susan Hartenstein

Rockaway Artists Alliance
by Susan Hartenstein

Camp KidsmART, Rockaway Artists Alliance's (RAA) arts based summer camp, completed its seventh successful season with a celebration in Fort Tilden on the evening of Wednesday, August 9.

The camp is so successful and special - so loved and respected - for many reasons that were in abundant evidence Wednesday evening.

On display in the professional galleries of the Rockaway Center for the Arts in Fort Tilden, home of the camp, were artworks produced by the 180 campers.

Painted self-portraits, fanciful clay caterpillars, papier mach sculptures, bright maracas, bold puppets, a majestically crafted cardboard castle, beaded collages, and much more - the diversity of imaginative art and art disciplines was impressive.

A slide show of images of the camp, taken by accomplished photographers John Grillo, Arianna Rose and others, captured the delicious faces of campers and staff members smiling almost to the point of exploding cheeks; children totally focused on whatever activity they had at hand whether sculpting a butterfly or playing a game; staffers leading children in dance or joyously dousing campers with buckets of cooooooling water in a hot, hot summer season; teen assistants, instructors and campers bear-hugging; budding actors brimming with enthusiasm, posing for the camera with their theater instructor; sports instructors leading children in exercise and games. The wide ranging curriculum is carried out by a diverse and experienced staff of child care, education and artist professionals."

On the RAA outdoor Moon Stage campers led by teen assistants and instructors performed as singers, dancers, musicians and actors in original pieces.

All around, children were bursting with enthusiasm, brimming with confidence and pride.

The finale of the evening came as the brilliant orange moon rose in the sky and the children sang, "I Can See Clearly, Now." One needed only to savor these moments and to observe the children and adults to understand that Camp KidsmART does not simply occupy the time of the children it serves.

It changes their lives.

And that is how the success of this program can be measured. Children have grown up in Camp KidsmART. More precisely, they have matured in this setting. Campers have gone on to become teen assistants.

Teen assistants have gone on to become instructors.

Many of the teens are planning careers in teaching, art therapy and related fields. The principles upon which the camp is based - kindness, imagination, dependability, sensitivity, motivation, acceptance, respectfulness and tolerance - have become part of the fabric of their lives. Camp Co-Director Marina Callaghan explains that these principles are adhered to and celebrated. If any bullying or teasing may infrequently occur, it is immediately dealt with and resolved. Behavioral modification is encouraged through the use of good deed beads and other rewards. The administrators, including Assistant Director Tara Scannell, have continued a nurturing atmosphere in which creativity, spontaneity and freedom of expression are encouraged, but where discipline and mutual respect are equally valued. Self-confidence, teamwork and an appreciation of others are not slogans, they are reality. The variety of activities and events in camp promote and teach these principles. Campers build diverse relationships that they would not otherwise have an opportunity to form. RAA provides meaningful employment to teens, now numbering 38, on a peninsula where such jobs are scarce. Staff undergoes extensive interviewing, training and ongoing evaluation.

Parents from Rockaway, Brooklyn and mainland Queens love Camp KidsmART as much as their children and clamor to register their children in the program. They know they are sending them to a safe, secure and inspiring environment. Co-Director Callaghan is a New York State licensed school age child care provider; background checks are conducted on all counselors; 75% of all staff is certified in CPR and First Aid.

Camp administrators welcome and implement new ideas brought to them by staff, parents and campers. Each year curriculum is expanded and improved. This year campers in fifth grade and above were once again offered the opportunity to sail in Jamaica Bay, made possible by Gateway National Recreation Area's Floyd Bennett Field Jamaica Bay Unit. New this year is the multimedia library, now equipped with computers, and a number of special events, including "Color Clash" and "Pirates of the Peninsula" coordinated by counselor Ross Radusky.

Although the summer season is coming to a close, the spirit, philosophy and practice of this camp continue on throughout the year at the KidsmART after school program.

Final Summer Moon: Thursday, August 24 @ 7:30 p.m. on the Moon Stage in RoCA@Fort Tilden: three great bands - Hudson's Hope, Squid and No Boundaries. Surprise guests may also appear from out of the cool night air. If rain, we move inside to sTudio 7.

Plenty of free parking. Bring blankets, coolers, chairs, family & friends.

For more information : (718) 474-0861, e-mail rockart116@aol.com or visit www.rockawayartistsalliance.org

RAA's annual picnic: Sunday, August 20 from 1 p.m. on.

ARTSPLASH begins: September 9. Opening reception: Sunday, September 10.

Thanks to Hudson's Hope and Indaculture for playing RAA's last general meeting and the Moon Stage, respectively.

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