CORE campers take over Delta State campus

The first week of CORE Arts Camp, a program of the Janice Wyatt Mississippi Summer Arts Institute at Delta State University, is complete and over 50 teen artists are inspired and steadily creating. "The kids are learning, they're experimenting, some of them with new art forms that they haven't had previous experience with. The faculty is always really impressed with the kids, who self-select for art camp, and this year is no exception. We have a handful of seniors going on to become art majors and minors in college, one of which is coming to Delta State," said Cade Holder, art education coordinator at the BPAC. "I definitely think the campus life has an effect on the kids as well. It's their first taste of college living, bouncing around to different classrooms, the dorm, the caf, the gym. There's a lot that happens at the BPAC and Wright Art buildings on campus that will be presented to the public at the end of the two weeks, and the kids know that they're working toward creating something special. They're having a great time, but they're also working really hard," she said. Over their two-week stay, campers participate in classes focusing on digital, visual, literary, and performing arts for the residential intensive operating through the arts education department at the Bologna Performing Arts Center. Classes featured at CORE Arts 2018 include painting, stage combat, poetry, blues history, pop performance and instrumentation, comic book drawing, and paper sculpture. Campers attend many other classes throughout the day, taught by noted artistic professionals. "It always amazes me when the faculty come up with praise about certain campers or classes. Erin Mulligan, our dance instructor, was blown away by some of the work the kids were doing at the end of last week. Especially for our dance classes, the pace of camp is quite physically demanding, and the kids are moving and stretching and getting their heart rates up. She said she 'threw a lot at them' and they took it all, worked on the combinations, and made significant strides in rehearsals," said Holder. "The same thing has happened with some of our musical performance classes. I knew one of our first-time campers from Grenada was in the pop-performance class, but when I heard her sing at our camp-wide karaoke night, I was seriously impressed. So many of these kids come with natural talent, but it still takes you aback to see it first hand," she said. MSAI received several grants for camp operations. Due in part to a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, Erin Mulligan, a choreographer and accredited teaching artist from Greenwood, is leading two courses in contemporary dance and ballet. Also supported through MAC funds is Eileen Jennings, a Cleveland native and MSAI alumnus poised to complete her doctorate in music performance. Campers also have the opportunity to attend events off campus and Holder said she was pleased with these experiences. "In addition to the strides they make in classes, I'm always very impressed with how the campers act when they go off campus. We make sure they understand they're representing Delta State University and the Bologna Performing Arts Center, and we want them to take some pride in that. "We took these kids to the Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, as well as Hattiloo Theatre to see 'Raisin,' the musical version of Lorraine Hansberry's 'A Raisin in the Sun.' "They were very courteous theatre-goers, and the returning campers were even recognized by some of the theatre staff and management since we had attended a performance at the same theatre last year. To be told 'thank you for bringing this group back, they're great!' certainly means a lot to our program," said Holder. MSAI also welcomes the state of Mississippi’s Poet Laureate, Beth Ann Fennelly, who is leading two courses in creative non-fiction writing and poetry, and Dr. Alphonso Sanders, who is heading a course on Blues music history and performance. Both Fennelly and Sanders are supported by a grant from the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area. We were so excited to bring Beth Ann Fennelly onto our teaching roster this year. She's leading a class called 'Writing Life Stories,' which has been quite eye opening for some campers. Writing as expression, as creative art, isn't something a lot of the campers are familiar with when they're drilled on grammar and essay structure and reading synopses in school. "Beth Ann has been great getting the kids to open up about their stories, which was the primary objective behind the class. Even our counselors are having a great time in her classes, saying they've 'never heard poetry explained that way before,'" said Holder. Holder added the kids were able to study a motion poem by Catherine Pierce, a professor at Mississippi State University, with the spoken word of the poem playing over a professionally-shot video. "To see poetry working in a multi-media realm has been very helpful for the campers," she said. "Bringing in teaching artists like Beth Ann Fennelly and Erin Mulligan and Dr. Alphonso Sanders is paramount to the success of our camp. We're so grateful to the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and the Mississippi Arts Commission, two of our grant-funding organizations that help to make this annual project possible. "We have other local business and community group sponsors that help make arts experiences for our campers possible, like getting more than fifty teenagers to Memphis and back to go to the theatre, the art museum, and even performances at Grammy Museum Mississippi. The hard work of our faculty and our campers truly make CORE Arts at the Mississippi Summer Arts Institute special," said Holder. To celebrate the completion of camp, the BPAC will host a visual arts reception and literary arts reading Friday at 7 p.m. On Saturday at 10 a.m., CORE Arts campers will present a performing arts showcase on the main stage of the Delta and Pineland Theatre at the BPAC. All events are free and open to the public.

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