Kids get hands-on experience at museum

Kids get hands-on experience at museum

June 30th, 2011 by By Paul Leach/Correspondent in News

Art camper Leah Greenwood shows off her 'egghead' creation. Photo courtesy of Museum Center at Five Points

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - The Museum Center at Five Points immersed a score of middle school students in the worlds of pottery, painting and sculpture in summer art camp this week.

The museum's art camp kicked off with instruction from Michael Lalone, resident potter at the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, N.C. By the end of the day the class had created a host of kiln-fired clay puppet heads and elaborate whistles.

"The kids are allowed to be creative, and the experience enforces self-discipline," said Lalone, who praised the artistic opportunities offered by the museum.

Few students experience sustained exposure to different artistic media in schools these days because of low budgeting priorities for the arts, he said.

Ocoee Middle School student Sarah Steele said she did not take an art class in her previous year of studies. Steele said she enjoyed the pottery class as she worked her clay figure and tried to determine what it would become.

The summer camps are a way to broaden the students' cultural awareness and to show them that the arts can be pursued as a profession, said Jennifer White, the museum's education curator.

"We want them to have a high-quality artistic experience, and we bring in professional quality artists for that reason," White said.

The camp curriculum devotes each day to a different artistic discipline, including sculpturing with found objects, creating mixed media collages and casting plaster sculptures.

Even as the students wrap their minds and hands around clay, paint and even metal projects, the museum emphasizes that this week's journey takes steps beyond the crafts themselves.

"I've seen this to be a transforming experience for the children, which is very gratifying for the museum's staff," museum director Lisa Simpson Lutts said in a news release. "At the same time they become familiar with museums and how museums work."

The Museum Center at Five Points will host a summer art camp for elementary students - which already is filled - the second week of July. White hopes to add a third camp next year.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at