At Florence art camp, kids leave technology at home (Thinkstock)
At Florence art camp, kids leave technology at home

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - "No technology allowed" is a hard-and-fast rule at Kennedy-Douglass Center's Young Masters Art School in Florence.

Director Lucie Ayers said most children come in with an interest in art, but some have to be convinced to put away technology.

"Last year, a grandmother brought in her grandchild to fill out a camp application and she told me, 'I've got to get this child off the computer and iPad,' " Ayers said. "They have to leave the technical stuff at home. They're here to learn, and they won't have time for them.

"By the middle of the morning, this little girl was into art. She had never been involved in anything like this."

The school is in its seventh year and teaches basic art skills in fun ways. Each of the two one-week programs includes as many children as possible, but Ayers said there is a waiting list each year because they keep the groups small to allow for one-on-one instruction.

There are classes for students entering first through third grades and separate classes for students entering fourth through sixth grades.

From rolling and twisting newspapers into art to creating their own version of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and Picasso-esque multimedia projects, activities are hands on.

"They know how to text, but they don't know how to twist and make something with their hands. Or they don't know how to use their imagination. When they finally figure out how to do it, they love this stuff," Ayers said.

"For the younger students, it's a good base and with the older ones we can get a little more in depth. Each day builds on the next."

According to Ayers, Jamie B. Lynch is one of the teachers "showing them what art is all about."

"She gives them an idea and encourages them how to do things. You can see the stars in their eyes when they get it," Ayers said.

Lynch, a studio owner and art teacher at Harlan School, shows the group an example of a painting - a sunflower. She explains mixing colors and complementary colors. After globs of paint are dropped on the children's canvases, they begin their art.

"The children take direction well. They're a good age; they're in their forming years. We give them the basics and see what they can do with it," Lynch said.

"Some learn visually, some learn auditory; they all have a different process and it's amazing what they can learn. They have very different levels of skill and we let them explore it. I don't want it to look like mine (the example); I want it to look like theirs."

The art center offers four scholarships for the annual school - one for each class offered.

"The scholarship program helps expose those children who are receptive to art but are environmentally challenged," Lynch said. "I'm proud of those parents who will let their kids grow. They are building skills they can take with them and use in life.

"Being an artist is challenging -- it's problem solving and decision making. This is an opportunity to build self-esteem and to build confidence in their art and their talent."
Teacher Provie Musso expressed a similar sentiment.

"Art helps us in everything we do," said Musso, who taught art for 35 years before her retirement. "I tell parents beautiful art is a by-product of building skills such as problem solving."

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