As ballerinas dance atop Wall Street bulls (have you seen that poster from Adbusters?) and local chambers and councils work to aggregate tourism marketing, and while artists are busy finding galleries (ARTworks' is booked through October 2012,) new arts voices are forming in Beaufort.
"It's important to be an artist so you can make stuff. It's a hands-on thing," said Nicole Marsh, a middle-schooler who enjoyed the basketry class at ARTworks, because "they're pretty when you're done. You can make different patterns."
Each week during the after-school session at ARTworks, approximately 60 sets of parents deliver their children to a Lowcountry arts adventure, one that is focused on the skills, materials and processes of visual, performing and literary arts, and supported by a private family foundation. In the particular session that just ended, children sculpted with clay; wove with reeds; painted on bark paper; wrote Lowcountry adventure stories; drew and learned the history of mandalas (a geometric figure with symbolic meaning); explored the stage and acting skills; and delved into salt-marshy nature art. (Yes, more 6-16 classes are registering now, and classes for adults are available too.)
"I just like gargoyles all together. I liked making the mouth," explained Alex Clark, a fifth-grade home-schooler who took the clay class. "We took a piece of newspaper and wrapped the clay over it, and that formed the body. I like working with my hands. I think about details I'm going to put on. I like being an artist."
Alex also is in an upcoming production of "Guys and Dolls" and plans to attend ARTworks' theater writing intensive in December.
Inside the classrooms, the goals are straightforward and posted for everyone to read. Heather Denardo's theater goals span from concentration to triumph; Jean Norton-Torjussen's mandala goals include the use of protractors and compasses, which the in-school teachers of these students will be glad to hear. In my creative writing class, we shoot for sustained, quiet writing time. And believe it or not, a "Legend of Zelda" video game aficionado, Sam Derrick, told me that he really appreciates this sustained quietness. What a multitalented boy.
Beyond this valuable class time and beyond the studios of the ARTworks community arts center, the goals are bigger, such as the capability for smooth collaboration and excellence in self-expression. Five or 10 years from now, the childhood memories these children share will include the formative experiences of growing up in an art town.
Jackson Cribb, who's in seventh grade and took the clay class with artist Jada Gray, perceived that his clay projects weren't just a typical assignment.
"There's no limits. Every day we do different topics," Jackson said. "The most fun thing is that in the end you don't know how it's going to come out, whether you plan it or not. I made a fish with three mohawks, and jar-like containers with very unique tops."
Katlyn Brink, who's in 10th grade, learned from artist Kim Keats about American Indians, bark paper and weaving, which will stay with her, she said.
"You have to think a lot -- which way to go, and how its going to look after it's done," she said.
One of ARTworks' regular young students, Benjamin Glover (who is often trailed by two more little Glovers, going from class to class), is also in the November production of "Quilting the Sun" at ARTworks. His character, Alonzo, is teaching his mama, a former slave and quilting artist, to read and write her name. What is he learning from this experience?
"Just don't give up. Alonzo never gave up teaching her," he said. "It's an adventure with serious moments."
As Jenny Rone says to parents while handling sign-up time and the family showcase at the end of each session, thank you for sharing your kids with us.
Lisa Annelouise Rentz is the transmedia publicity leader for ARTworks, the community arts center in Beaufort. She is developing the "Creative Writing with Kids" app, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.