“If you could be a superhero, what would your power be and why?” This was the question posed to a group of 36 students on the first morning of our inaugural CLARA Performing Arts Summer Camp. Their responses were a precise reflection of their apprehension, nerves, and excitement for the upcoming two weeks of immersive dance, music and theatre. The first student, Aiden, responded, “My power would be deafness so that I wouldn’t have to listen to YOU.” After a brief pause, the instructor thanked the student for his honesty and empathized with the fact that a parent had signed him up for the camp –against his will — (adding that all of the people in the room would likely rather still be sleeping on this early Monday morning). Luckily, the tone quickly shifted around the circle with creative ideas such as time travel powers and invisibility to telekinesis and flying. The morning question and responses marked the beginning of their camp journey: 2 weeks filled with exploring new art forms, taking risks, building friendships and learning to say, “yes” in the face of a challenge.
Each day students traveled throughout the halls of CLARA to experience the vibrant and diverse arts programming offered by each tenant. A group may have started the day learning an Irish folk dance at the McKeever school, jumped into a Theatre Improvisation class at Capital Stage and finished the day learning guitar or ukulele at the Sacramento Preparatory Music Academy. By the end of the first week, each student had participated in 15 different performing arts classes — absorbing the information like sponges and feeling a sense of satisfaction at all they had accomplished in such a short time.
The second week added a layer of anticipation and preparation for the culminating performance demonstration. Classes transitioned into rehearsals as each group selected their performances pieces for the final day of camp. It was remarkable to see the students come together as a collective ensemble of performers, dedicated to working with each other to produce their show. The young campers’ collaboration, creative problem solving, adaptability and growing confidence filled the classrooms and auditorium of CLARA.
On the final day of camp, families and community supporters gathered in the auditorium for the culminating show. During the two- hour performance, parents were amazed to see their children’s vast exposure to so many different art forms and their considerable growth in skill and confidence. This was followed by a lively reception among the tenants, audience, students and CLARA staff, celebrating the success of our first camp program. The summer camp allowed the tenants to come together and collaborate in a new and fulfilling way, it brought new interest in the arts to our students and their families, and it reminded the community of the value and impact of quality arts-learning.
Perhaps Aiden’s reflection during our final morning circle can sum up the camp experience: it was clear that the energy in the room had dramatically shifted from that first sleepy and resistant Monday. Their final question was, “If you could describe your camp experience in one word, what would it be?” When it came to Aiden’s turn he asked, “Can I use two words? It doesn’t work with one.” After a smile and nod from the instructor, he answered, “The Best.”