TREMONT—Recognizing how important art can be to help people during a pandemic, co-directors of the Bass Harbor Memorial Library’s Art and Nature Camp decided to proceed with a remote model and guide young artists to connect with their community by communicating through their creativity.
In its 15th year, the Art and Nature Camp traditionally takes place the last week of July and is open to visitors and residents.
This year, instead of hosting the 16 participants, ages 5-12, at the library, the children are producing art at home with a packet of supplies that includes a letter sign, paints, a journal and collection of random items to spark creativity. In addition to meeting through Google three times during the week, several instructional videos were also available for the participants of the camp.
Colorful letters spelling out this year’s theme, “Create, Communicate, Connect,” as well as the artists’ creations, will be on display at the Kelley Farm Community Garden in Bernard from Aug. 3-15.
“It’s our theme, but it’s also a directive,” said camp co-director Kathie Pratt. “First you create. With that creation you’re communicating something and then you connect.”
Pratt has been directing the summer camp for the last 10 years and was a guest artist for the five previous years it took place at the library.
“I was usually a paid artist one day and then I would come back for the rest of the week because it was just so darn much fun,” she said in a conversation with the Islander.
Knowing that keeping campers safe at a common location would be tough, Pratt almost decided against having the camp this year. Co-director and art therapist Dawn Nuding suggested it be done virtually.
“We just couldn’t do it live this year,” said Pratt, adding that Nuding was the instrumental piece that made it happen. “I agreed to do it if she would co-direct. She has been a guest artist at our camp for many, many years.”
A grant from Witham Family Hotels Charitable Fund also made the camp possible for children in the community at no cost.
Both Pratt and Nuding considered how much the last five months of social isolation and the stay-at-home order from Govenor Janet Mills has affected children and members of the community in creating the camp curriculum.
“I am amazed at some of the ways people have had to figure out to communicate with each other,” said Pratt, noting signs, window displays and video connections. “When anyone does this it can help. It helps the people looking at it.”
An instrumental part of the camp supply packet is a journal. In addition to the physical materials for creating, journal prompts were offered to inspire writing that could lead to sculpting, painting and/or drawing, with the idea of helping the children work through emotions and experiences surrounding the pandemic. Nuding focuses on art therapy in her practice, which helped create prompts like emotional landscape, drawing from the right side of your brain, safe space and draw your dream room.
“She has a special outlook on how cathartic art can be,” said Pratt about her co-director. “That’s one of the reasons for these journals.”
Parents are also more involved this year because the children are creating from home.
“Even though it’s still at home with their families, a lot of them seem to be enjoying it,” said Pratt about the kids’ camp experience.
Now, their creations can be found on display at the Kelley Farm in Bernard, a Maine Coast Heritage Trust property.
“I think it’s a really nice use of public space,” said Pratt. “It was always called the art and nature camp. This was kind of our only way to do that. The art is out in nature.”