July 16, 2008

M.A.D. Camp Inspires Arts: Blackhawk Ministries’ Program is for Grades 2-6

By Deb Todd, The News-Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Jul. 16--"In the beginning God created..." (Genesis 1:1a)

With these five words, the first book of the Bible establishes God's divine creativity. Local artist and teacher Jessie Smith says, "God is first and foremost an artist. ... He created."

Smith, along with Korban Miller and Stephanie Longbrake, will staff M.A.D. Camp, a weeklong adventure in the fine arts for children in grades 2-6. It will take place Monday-July 25 at Blackhawk Ministries, 7400 E. State Blvd.

The camp will shepherd groups of children in music, art and drama (the M, A and D in M.A.D.), hoping to ignite the creativity in each child.

Janice Maurizi, Blackhawk's director of children's ministries, says M.A.D. Camp was born out of a desire to offer children opportunities to explore the arts. "Fine arts are close to ... my heart," she says. "We saw a need for kids with gifts in the arts who don't get to use them.

"We have a staff who (are) gifted and passionate about the arts and (who are) using their gifts to glorify God," Maurizi says. "Kids get to see them modeling and actually using their gifts."

She believes that "talent comes from the heart, and we can use those talents to praise God. We can express who he is through music, art and drama."

Miller, Blackhawk's worship pastor, focuses on teaching music basics of melody, rhythm and expression, incorporating hand motions and simple choreography to aid in memorization. His wife, Tanya, teaches vocal skills, while other local professionals share instrumental talents.

"I don't usually work with kids," says Miller, "but this group is pretty unique. ... They are all really excited to be there. That attitude makes them fun to work with."

All songs are based on biblical teachings.

"We discuss what we're singing and to whom we sing," says Miller. "We talk about what worship means -- both musical and nonmusical."

Each age group learns two songs to present at Friday's program.

Longbrake uses skills as a music teacher and actress to teach drama.

"Each day, we focus on one element," she says, describing activities that encourage children to experiment with stage movement, vocal inflection and projection, and the use of props.

Each day's lesson is supported by Scripture that coordinates with the activity, and children are challenged to honor God while serving and encouraging others.

"Theater is really just storytelling," she says. "I help kids realize that there are multiple opportunities to do drama in school, church and the community."

Longbrake, a cast member of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre's upcoming production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie," will use photo clips from rehearsals to "show the kids what can be done."

The art portion of M.A.D. Camp appeals to parents because "the child gets an 'art fix,' and the mess stays with us!" Smith says with a laugh. "I'm here to help them make a mess."

Each day offers a taste of a different medium, including watercolor, pastels and clay.

"Kids are so creative," says Smith. "I give them a light framework and let them go. That's what is fun -- watching them put their ideas into reality."

She touches on facets of art history related to each project and helps kids recognize other places in the community that offer opportunities for creativity.

The week's activities culminate in a program at noon Friday, with songs, scenes and theater games, and a display of artwork. Miller arranges for a live band to accompany the singers -- something the children love.

"These kids ... it's exciting to see them blossom and use their gifts," says Havilah Salyer, Blackhawk's assistant director of children's ministries. Salyer works behind the scenes to help the camp run smoothly.

Team members agree that M.A.D. Camp is meeting a need, offering children a safe place to be creative. They are open to the possibility of expanding the program to different age levels, incorporating other disciplines or collaborating with other churches.

"I wish I was a kid and could go to M.A.D. Camp!" Salyer says with a laugh.


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