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The full story: Headwaters Music and Arts hosts week-long camp for youth

Students work on their sketching skills at art camp on Tuesday at Headwaters Music and Arts. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 3
Ellie Karger works on a sketch using a branch as a reference on Tuesday during art camp at Headwaters Music and Arts. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 3
Instructor Tom Daly works with Gabrielle Sauve on a papier-mâché project at art camp on Tuesday at Headwaters Music and Arts. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 3 / 3

BEMIDJI—Local phenologist John Latimer stood in front of a small crowd filled with young faces, explaining the difference between one kind of dragonfly and another. As he pointed from one slide to the next, plenty of hands shot into the air to ask questions, or simply to tell how they'd seen a certain dragonfly in their own backyard.

Contrary to what it may seem, Latimer was not speaking at a science class, but rather at a week-long art camp at Headwaters Music and Arts with the theme of "dragons and dragonflies."

"We're all very nature focused," said Diamond Knispel, one of the leaders of the camp. "The nature part is the realism part of art, and the dragons would be the surreal part."

Encompassing a range of art forms and activities, the program aims to immerse its students in both the art world and the natural world their art so often replicates. However, the camp also features a storytelling angle, helping the students not just to create, but to be able to tell the full story behind their artwork.

After Latimer finished speaking, the students broke off into groups—one went off to finish a papier-mâché project they'd begun earlier, another to draw sketches based on the various leaves and branches lying on the table. Throughout the week, they'd all circulate to experience the different art forms at the camp.

There were 26 students who took part in the art school's annual camp, stretching in ages from 9 to 14. It included everything from the students' papier-mâché projects to other forms such as pottery and fiber art. The camp finished on Friday with an art exhibition and reception for the students.

For part of the camp, the theme "dragons and dragonflies" meant learning about nature, such as during the lecture with Latimer. For another part of the camp, that may have meant diving into other elements of storytelling outside of just paint and paste.

In instructor Jamie Lee's class, the students had to create art projects and then tell the rest of the class a little about the piece's story, whatever that may include.

"I think the storytelling part of it is really good," said Evan Langerak, a 12-year-old student who came to the art camp. "I think it helps contribute to what our artwork is."

But the storytelling element wasn't just about creating stories to accompany the artwork. It also focused on learning how to communicate that component to everyone else who may see or experience the art. That's when they began to delve into the concept of creating artist statements.

The students walked to Gallery North to see the different artist statements other artists had written, which usually includes the description of the art or how the artist interprets the piece. For some of the students, like Langerak, it was the first time they were introduced to the concept.

For the camp leaders, like Knispel, it was important to teach the students how to tell their full story, not just with clay and paint, but also with words.

"We tried to figure out how the artist statements and the art itself actually fit together," Knispel said. "We're getting the kids to figure out how to talk about their art and tell the story about why they create in the first place."

Jordan Shearer

Jordan Shearer covers crime and social issues for the Bemidji Pioneer. A Rochester native and Bemidji State grad, he previously spent several years in western Nebraska writing for the Keith County News. Follow him on Twitter @Jmanassa

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