Campers explore deep into their art forms thanks to expert guides
With a strong community of artists and more and more resources to sustain their work, Oklahoma City is a great place to recruit camp instructors. This is something Christine Gibson, manager of youth and family programs, discovered seven years ago when she came to work at Oklahoma Contemporary: The talent pool is deep and the possibilities for new camps have only expanded.
With more than 50 summer camps to choose from, Camp Contemporary provide 5- to 12-year-olds with a wide choice of artistic disciplines. Camps run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday — and a Friday Camp Showcase lets the kids show off all they've learned and created. Showcases include gallery-style displays in camp studios and live performances.
All instructors for the camps, which include such artistically adventurous experiences as Ceramic Cities (using clay to create a unique city skyline) and the digital camp Superhero Cartoon Creation, are artists or teachers from the Oklahoma City area.
“The types of camps have really evolved,” Gibson said. “Now we're doing some more tech base camps, and we’re doing ones like experimental art. That now includes Creative Robotics and then working with some pretty big names here in this city, like Kyle Roberts who runs Reckless Abandonment Pictures and teaches Stop-Motion Animation."
This includes recruiting DJs like Angel Little and Tony Tee to run a DJ School that offers hands-on experience on the most up-to-date technology, or the Skateboard Design and Creation camp instructed by 3-D designer, sculptor and longtime skatepunk Gabriel Friedman.
"I try to find the best people in the city to do very specific work with the kids,” Gibson said.
Like the DJ School, which teaches some elements of hip-hop and dance music, Skateboard Design and Creation (held June 7-11) also included cultural elements. Friedman said the skateboarding community proved particularly helpful in providing resources for the camp, including materials and support from Thrasher magazine, Black Mesa skateboards, Core skateboard shop, Real skateboards, trucks from Thunder Trucks, Spitfire wheels and Shake Junt bearings. And thanks to Oklahoma City professional skateboarder Kyle Walker, many of those supplies were completely donated.
Walker even provided white Vans board shoes for the campers to decorate.
“So, the first day of camp, we kind of tricked the kids and said, ‘We're going to do an art project about feet,’ and we had all the kids draw out their feet on a piece of paper and write their name on it,” Friedman said. "Then we just took that to the Vans store. Kyle basically got Vans to give us white Vans that fit all of their traced feet.”
Though custom equipment and kicks from a top sports figure don't appear at camp every day, Gibson said Oklahoma Contemporary’s network of camp instructors is connected, resourceful and knowledgeable, so the experience for campers is always magnified.
“People thought, ‘Oh, they’re probably going to be painting boards that are already pre-made,'” Gibson said. “But no, they were able to design their own shape. There was an adult there when they cut out the shape, and each of the boards had a theme that was their own. We also got nice hardware for the boards, nice equipment that was donated.”
Friedman said the experience taught his campers the value of community and cooperation.
“I think what I tried to kind of impart to the campers was that skateboarding is a peer-supported community,” he said. “So, it's very different from any sport, or almost any art form or practice in the sense there is almost no institution. There's almost no judges. There's almost no coaches. It's a friend group, essentially.”
Such positive interactions extend to the instructors, as well.
"Long story short, it was kind of a magical experience for everyone," Friedman said. "And probably the best part of it was, the kids were some of the coolest — the best-mannered, respectful, excited and focused kids I've ever been around."
Camp Contemporary continues through Aug. 6, but only a few camps have space remaining. Click here to learn more and register your camper.
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