BLOOMINGTON -- Orlee Spier has created "a little world inside a box."

At the Ivy Arts for Kids camp on Thursday, Orlee's little world looks a lot like her bedroom. It has a tiny bed made of felt, sitting in one corner of a cardboard box. Along one wall are buttons, which stand in for the lights. A miniature mobile hangs in one corner.

The theme for the camp -- the third session of Ivy Tech's summer art program for children -- is "Home Sweet Home," so Orlee's bedroom fits the mold fairly well. Lina Mei Johanson, though, broke away from the theme for her shoebox diorama.

"It's night, and we're in Paris," she says, gesturing to her box. The Eiffel Tower is painted in broad brushstrokes against a black background, with little white stars studding the sky. The blue river at the bottom of the box is decorated with seashells. Just in case people on their evening stroll get hungry, Lina Mei has included a doughnut shop.

The Ivy Arts for Kids camp has been running since 2010, when Ivy Tech acquired the John Waldron Arts Center.

For two weeks in June or July, kids between the ages of 4 and 11 can explore several different artistic methods: ceramics, painting, drawing, papier mache and more.

Curtis Smith, executive director of Ivy Tech's Center for Lifelong Learning, said summertime is the center's busiest time of the year, running camps for younger children as well as teenagers at several Ivy Tech locations. Having art camp at an art gallery is something special for the participating youngsters: walking through exhibits every day, seeing sculptures and paintings and photographs, can give them inspiration and aspirations for their own art.

In Jess Courtney's class, 9- and 10-year-olds pound and pinch clay into pots. One student has made a little ceramic slice of pizza, with the toppings carved carefully into the clay; another has shaped a dish with a lid.

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Maya Walter shows off her set of five pinch-pots, each personalized with the initials of her family members. She's made one each for her mother, father, brother, and the family dogs, Libby and Gunner.

She has also made a nameplate that stands up, with MAYA inscribed in big letters. But when she tries to pick it up, it falls and breaks into pieces on the floor.

Unperturbed, she brushes the pieces into a pile and goes to tell Courtney what has happened. Courtney said if she wants, they can make a new one.

"My letters weren't showing up anyway," Maya tells her teacher.

"Maybe it was a happy accident," Courtney answers.

Breaks and spills are part of the artistic process, Courtney says. "From Day 1, I like to talk about how things break." She emphasizes to her students that accidents aren't a big deal, that they can remake their projects, and that no one is angry or in trouble.

Those attitudes, as well as the basics of different ways to make art, are really what the Ivy Tech camp instructors and directors want students to take away from their two-week exploration.

"It's not so much about competencies as it is about learning to really, really enjoy art," Smith says.

At the very end of the two-week camp, the kids turn the Rose Fire Bay -- the black box theater in the Waldron's lower level -- into their very own art gallery. Each camper gets their own spot along a long table to display their sculptures and dioramas, and a panel where they can hang their pictures.

Smith says the instructors create a "track-lighting gallery effect" for the room and give a speech to parents before they open the doors, to "really hype it up" and create the feel of a real art show. He said it's one of the most fun parts of the whole experience.

"Kids are so excited, and parents so proud," he says. "The show helps the kids feel like real artists and show that artistic side to their family and friends. By doing this, they more deeply internalize the things they've learned, and art becomes more a part of their identity."

For two weeks, they create art in a real art gallery and finally get to put it on display. Whatever they decide to do after camp, for a little while they can call themselves "artists"--and believe it.

Source: The (Bloomington) Herald Times, http://bit.ly/2u6gUUb

Information from: The Herald Times, http://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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