St. John’s fine arts camp fuses faith, creativity

By Jessica Brodie

FORT MILL—For the fourth year running, dozens of kids had the chance to participate in a fine arts camp that fuses creativity and Jesus in one.

Held the week of July 8, local elementary and middle school students headed to St. John’s United Methodist Church for hands-on exploration of the arts. Kids had the chance to choose two tracks among these six: visual art, photography, theater, chorus, instrumental music and creative writing.

The Rev. Karen Radcliffe, St. John’s pastor, helped found the camp when she came to the church several years ago. The area hosts a few other fine arts camps, but none in a church setting and none at what she considers a reasonable cost. St. John’s charges $75 for the week, which includes lunch each day. Others cost upwards of $500.

“Arts and music is such an integral part of who we are as Christians, and to be able to combine all of that in one is amazing,” Radcliffe said. “Plus, students who are exposed early to music and arts tend to do better in learning than students who are not.”

Mallory Capps, St. John’s director of children and youth, said their emphasis is on making the arts accessible, on showing kids they each have gifts from God that they can use to worship Him and shine His light on earth.

“Our creativity is part of how we make an offering to god on whatever capacity that looks like,” Capps said. “I always tell them I’m not the best singer, but you don’t have to be the most magnificent to use your gifts for God.”

As Radcliffe said, “You don’t have to be a Mozart to be a musician.”

In the visual arts class, the students spent the week delving into modern art. One day, they studied mosaics and then made some of their own. The next day, they did an acrylic on canvas in the style of the Bauhaus movement of modern art. Another day they focused on Lichtenstein and pop art, another was a self-portrait in the style of Andy Warhol. The day the Advocate visited, they did glass art, painting in their own style and patterns with inspiration from famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly.

Some of the kids love art, while some are just enjoying an artistic reprieve during summer break, said visual arts teacher Elizabeth Majors.
“They all bring different skills to the table,” Majors said.
This was her first year at camp for Trinity Seres, a rising seventh grader, and she was loving her experience. She chose the visual art and creative writing tracks.

“It’s really fun!” she said as she painted a glass vase. “I feel like they should charge more.”

Radcliffe and Capps said they began each day with singing, teaching the Doxology and other traditional church songs, such as “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.”

Capps said she enjoys helping the kids understand that words written hundreds of years ago still resonate today.

“The man who wrote ‘It is Well with My Soul’ lost all his children, and yet he was able to write that in his grief,” Capps said. “It’s good to show them our art and music is such a big part of who we are as a culture.”

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