During the interview for my summer internship at Artpace, I distinctly remember learning that near the middle of the summer there would be this thing called Camp Artpace. In fact there would be Camp Artpace I and Camp Artpace II. I was pretty excited about it, coming in with some veteran experience of my own having spent my elementary summers in every camp on the market (literally they spanned from chess to mermaid ceramics). I thought, for the most part, that I had a good idea of what I was getting into.
After a week of lesson planning for Camp Artpace I, designed for 6-8 years old, I was still having trouble understanding how our team was going to make contemporary art more or less digestible for them. Those concerns were quickly dissolved as soon as one of the campers walked through the door wearing some shoes splattered with paint. After asking about them she happily responded, “They’re my Jackson Pollock shoes!” Needless to say these students knew, maybe more so than I did, what they signed up for.
As the week developed it became more obvious with the discussion of each project that not only was contemporary art digestible for this age group, but that it was also the perfect time period to encourage creative learning. The idealistic phrase “anything can be art” and the mentality that “it’s OK if you mess up,”—two ideas at the heart of Artpace teaching—helped students expand their willingness to explore new mediums and methods for making art.
The project I found most impressive in terms of both process and outcome was the nearly life-size self-portrait students created with Artpace’s current Hudson (Show)Room artist, and San Antonio native, Vincent Valdez. After viewing his exhibition to sketch and discuss his work, students met back in the Student Studio and began creating their own portrait with Valdez, but with a special twist—their portraits were of everything but their bodies. With the absence of their physical form, the students depicted their unique clothing and accessories in various poses as a way of expressing their identity. Whether by coming to Camp Artpace wearing a “Drive for 5” Spurs Championship shirt or by striking a particularly sassy pose, the students expanded their association of the word “identity” to include more than just their physicality.
By the end of the week, Camp Artpace students had created nearly 25 individual works of art working in 12 different mediums, got behind-the-scenes studio tours with two of Artpace’s current Artists-in-Residence Margaret Meehan (Dallas, Texas) and Jungeun Lee (Frisco, Texas), and to their particular delight, successfully lunched every afternoon on the Artpace rooftop with no rain.
Contemporary art is accessible for all ages, and programs like Camp Artpace are in place to foster that mentality.
-Ali, Summer 2014 Bexar County Arts Intern