By Hayley M. Cook
BELFRY, Ky. – The instructors and volunteers at Belfry High School’s summer art camp for children expressed their passion for making sure children get their fill of art education - an aspect of the curriculum that many feel is underrepresented throughout the school year.
Christopher Epling, a recognized cartoonist, illustrator and art director, has worked at every school in Pike County as well as nearly 300 others, and says he believes art is more important for students than many people realize.
“Because of funding, the arts are being cut all of the time,” Epling said. “Which I understand to an extent because, of course, math and English are extremely important. The thing that bothers me, however, is that we have taken away their ability to express themselves.”
Epling added, “There are things these kids simply can’t talk about with others, or maybe they don’t know how to discuss. Where is their outlet to express themselves? We have depression in young kids, we have violence at school, and I believe many kids just need a way to express how they are feeling. I believe providing them with that is so important.”
Epling himself has illustrated seven books and was recently awarded the Kentucky Press Association Mark of Excellency Award for 2012-2013. He has dedicated much of his time to working with young children and showing them how to express themselves creatively through drawing.
“My No. 1 rule is they absolutely cannot say they don’t know how to draw,” Epling said. “I tell them if they can hold a pencil and draw lines on a sheet of paper, they can draw. They may not be able to draw like Marvel or DC, but neither can I. It doesn’t matter about drawing like anyone else; it’s about that boat which leads you toward expressing yourself freely. That’s the amazing thing about art!”
“Art is such an important part of our culture,” said Meredith Yount, who taught a sculpting class at the camp. “It isn’t in schools as much as it should be, so this art camp has really allowed students to try new things and experience creative thinking.”
Chelsea Workman, extension intern for 4-H and family consumer sciences, taught a class about food art and shared her excitment over how the children were affected by the camp.
“Seeing these kids come up with such creative ideas is really amazing to me,” Workman said. “Art allows them to truly express themselves. I don’t know how they come up with some of this stuff, honestly. I’ve had kids use food to create everything from butterlies to zombies in here!”
Some parents were also present at the art camp to watch their children take part in the different projects and activities.
Allison Dotson, mother of 11-year-old Kiersten, said that her daughter loved the camp and everything she learned while she was there.
“She’s loving it,” Dotson said. “Kiersten’s main goal right now is to get to high school and take art classes there. She loves art so much and never gets the chance to do anything art-related. We actually hired someone to give her art lessons because she enjoys it so much. I know some kids like to play on the computer, but Kiersten just wants to sit and draw pictures. This art camp was a blast for her.”
The Belfry summer art camp was a huge sucess and saw double the number of students family resource coordinators originally expected.
To learn more about Christopher Epling’s art, visit www.christopherepling.com.
Hayley Molloy Cook is a news reporter and writes features for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279, or on Twitter @hayleymcook