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Woodlands grows with art camp

Deer Crossing the Art Farm
Art Camp coordinator Jennifer Lyons (left) works with two youth leaders at the Inspiration Station.

The second day at the Woodlands Summer Art Camp starts with journaling – it could be writing or drawing in some impressive hardcover notebooks – for the 18 kids aged eight to 14 going to the day camp located at Deer Crossing the Art Farm near Langdale. After that, it’s working on art projects, making dream catchers, painting on fabric in the woods under the shade of a maple tree, or playing games that provoke laughter. There’s lots of time for breaks, snacks and meeting new friends.

Coordinator Sandy Buck is everywhere, keeping track of kids and ensuring everyone fits in, no matter what age. A 14-year-old needs different activities, she comments, than a nine-year-old. Coordinator Jennifer Lyons is also on duty – she’s the one with the green, paint-splotched hand from making a collage that features fern leaves.

Sounds like a usual summer camp – but this one is slightly different. It’s part of a much larger project, the Woodlands Project, an artistic focus on a 10-acre strip of shady, green forest in the heart of Gibsons.

Also involved in this art camp are 12 youth leaders, many from the Coast, aged 15 to 24, who lead the kids on different projects around the theme of woodlands.

“We’re here to promote the natural beauty of the area and to do fun activities,” said Joanna Strzelecki, one of the hired youth who are learning as much about leadership as they are about teaching. Many of the youths are artistic, and it is important to the concept of the art camp that they assert their own ideas.

“Jennifer and I had to step back and allow them to take control,” Buck said. It’s a youth-driven program; community building is the goal.

Another element in this project is the local artists who offer their expertise. Miyuki Shinkai, glass artist, was at the Art Farm on Monday to mentor and lead the kids in painting on fabric. On Tuesday, Steve Wright visits to do neat things with music and sound. Bronwen Payerle has already given some input about painting projects, and Dean Schutz will talk sculpture.

“It’s not so much about teaching them how to draw, but about finding creative ways into it,” Buck said.

It’s not over when the art camp is over. At the end of the week the group will take stock: some of the youth will work on the next project, the Synchronicity Festival in August, and some of the kids’ artwork will be on show there. The next big step might be to work with the partners: the Town of Gibsons, David Suzuki Foundation and Emily Carr University of Art and Design to produce and present visual and multi-media installations based on the inspiration of the woodlands. The project builds on the success of last year’s program, The Aquifer Project.

More about the Woodlands Project and Synchronicity Festival is at