Students at the Appalachian Clay Fair were asked to tell a story on a clay tablet. (Photo Contributed)
When someone thinks of a kids’ summer arts camp, they may picture a roomful of children dabbling in watercolors, or perhaps kids participating in an amateur play.
The Appalachian Clay Camp, however, was a different matter.
“This was a totally different type of camp,” said Brian Mills, camp founder. “For one thing, we made sure that it didn’t cost the children anything, thanks to a generous grant from a private arts foundation. The basic requirements for the camp were: ‘Can you come to camp every day?’ ‘Are you passionate about the arts?’ Are you self-motivated?’ and ‘Can you work well with others?’ ”
The camp, which took place last week at the McKinney Arts Center in Jonesborough, was attended by approximately 23 middle school students. It was led by four present and former art teachers in the Johnson City and Washington County area, who put the camp’s curriculum together and instructed the students.
“Without reaching out to art teachers and getting them involved, this wouldn’t have happened,” Mills said.
Throughout the week, the students worked their way toward their final project: a clay tablet that told a story, an activity that echoed Jonesborough’s most-renowned pastime.
“They started with basic techniques and built on those each day,” Mills said.
But the goal of the camp reached beyond the inspiration of the students in attendance.
“I was hoping that these children would not only be able to inspire themselves, but also to help other kids,” said Mills.
Mills said that involving homeschool students was an important aspect of the camp.
“We wanted to reach out to homeschoolers as well. They tend to get left out of projects, and we wanted them to have the chance to participate,” Mills said.
The camp’s attendees will be displaying their artwork at a private reception today.
According to Mills, many individuals and businesses played a part in the camp’s success.
“If it had not been for the support of the Heritage Alliance, the town of Jonesborough, the Mary B. Martin Foundation’s support through their arts program at the McKinney Center, the support of several Jonesborough restaurants — they fed the kids each day — and the many hours donated by my dedicated team, none of this would have been possible,” said Mills.
Mills is also thankful for the support from the community for the camp.
“Obviously it couldn’t have happened without the community, and what we wanted to do was to build bridges with the community,” said Mills.
Looking ahead, Mills is hopeful that the region will continue to support the camp and recognize its true purpose.
“What the community needs to realize is that it’s not about me and what I do, or anything like that,” said Mills. “It’s about giving kids a chance to transform themselves, and I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to help make that happen.”