Julian might have upset the really nice elderly docent in the gift shop. And it just might have been my fault. These things happen, we are teaching much more than art skills here this week, camp is life, and life is camp.


It’s day four at the greatest camp that nobody knows about and I’m sad that soon it will all be over. This camp is my summer jam. Cross-pollination was the description my wife and I came up with 6 years ago. A combination of writing and art all within the backdrop of the Sonoma Valley Museum. The curriculum is designed around the current exhibit and this year my therapist suggested that it be my final year.


“Really Walt, do you want to continue creating this kind of tension in your life?” she inquired at our last session.


“Hell yes,” I replied, “Do you know nothing about me?” Kaiser therapy, it is what it is.


But I love this camp, and I will continue cause this oddly makes my wife and I stronger. We design the curriculum, we create the projects, we spend the week working with students and then we go home and are proud of our successes. I believe in the man code http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2017/06/19/hail-man-code/ and part of the code is getting over shit that makes most people quit. Learn and grow from your differences because grit is it.


This year is Albert Paley, an artist I knew nothing about 6 months ago and now feel like he’s my new BFF. That’s the beauty of these camps, to make a home run experience you gotta know your stuff, it’s fundamental teaching 101. So we learned and we brainstormed and we came up with three projects that give students an example of the art and the artist.


Day one we toured the plaza, then painted iconic images of an object that has been a threshold to students in their lives (pet, experience, activity). Day two students chose a word that represented a value in their life then made sculptures using environmental mediums (chopped fennel, sand, sawdust). Day three they displayed the letters in a metal arc attached to a base. Day four they created maquettes (little mini-Paley sculptures). Tomorrow we finish projects, have a showcase with parents and camp is done. Sad face emoji.


I also always provide a couple of alternatives as I know how long the projects take when I do them but sometimes the timing is different for the average 12 year-old. This year it’s bracelets out of FIMO clay and the two trusty Royal typewriters that have become like the SONOMAWOOD sign of the art camp. The bracelets are a huge hit; students are creating jewelry (like Paley did before he became a sculptor), and the stuff they write on the typewriter-very entertaining.


The maquettes led to the above incident with Julian as I might have been talking about Banksy going into museums and putting up his own art and I might have told the students to own the museum during the week of camp http://valleytalking.blogs.sonomanews.com/2016/10/10/own-it/ and maybe sometimes, I might promote a philosophy of stir-the-pot-whenever-possible-cause-life-is-short.


But, so what? It’s a good story and Julien will remember trying to sneak his Paley sculpture into the gift shop more than most of the boring stuff I’ve tried to teach him during the week. And the docents do need to lighten up, they’re just kids for gosh sake!


And while all this art is taking place the students are learning this in the library (in Kate’s words as I don’t want to get it wrong)


“Campers have been learning to write flash fiction, using an anthropomorphized fable, a cliffhanger, and a morality tale as examples. Various exercises on form, style, and narrative line are helping them to build solid stories.

“Beneath the setting sun is a man in a desert who has run out of water.” — Oliver

“Here is a man on one knee, shakily holding an open velvet box.” — Nina

“Here is a terrified child dangling from a ski lift. The sky is overcast and laden with ominous clouds.” — Sophie

The tension in these first lines aptly telegraph the scope of what follows, and campers have created some great work.”

Thresholds is the overarching theme of the week and while I have no idea what an “anthropomorphized fable” is, I have full confidence that Kate is teaching concepts, themes, and ideas which cross pollinate with iconic images and environmentalism and sculpture creation.

But they’re also learning public speaking and engagement skills and how to connect with others and all those soft skills that we don’t prioritize because it’s easier to stare at screens.

Students will present one of their art creations and read a passage they have written on Friday at 2:00 in the museum.

Everyone is invited, but please don’t try to sneak your own art into the gift shop.





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