Children experiencing arts through summer camp

Jodi Schellenberg
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EmpArt Art is a program developed by Dana Hunter, a Broadway star originally from Prince Albert, to help children experience different aspects of art.

Left: One of the students at EmpART Art feels the music move her during one of the activities at the camp on Wednesday. Right: Dana Hunter talks to the students about how to let the music flow through them at EmpART Art camp on Wednesday.

Hunter teaches the dance and drama sections of the program, which is being held this week at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.

So far, the program has been well received, with the children learning and growing.

“It has been going really amazing,” Hunter said. “We have a larger group than we had last year so it is really exciting to have so many new people and people from last year as well.

“It has been cool to see them sometimes take lead because they know what to expect and they know what they are doing in the program,” she added. “It has been really neat just to get to know each person individually and work with them.”

Although they were only halfway through the week, Hunter said they were already seeing a lot of differences in the kids from the beginning of the week.

“We are already seeing growth, individually and as a group,” she said. “Everyone is already learning and taking more risks and things are becoming more familiar so it is even more OK to take risks.”

For example, on the first day of the camp there was one student who was shy and nervous -- she didn’t want to stay for the entire day. On the second day, she was also apprehensive but decided to stay.

“Then today, day three, she walked right in, happy, said hi and was ready to work,” Hunter said. “Even that kind of a thing, going from being worried (that I’ll) lose them to just to knowing they are more comfortable. It is the most exciting thing when I see people grow and blossom.”

Hunter brought in a couple local instructors to help teach other art media. Maribeth Gauthier started out the week accompanying Hunter on the piano.

“That is really awesome because I get to be in the background and see how my music effects what they are doing and it is really cool to see how that works,” she said.

Gauthier also teaches music to the youngsters. On Tuesday, they worked on percussion.

“That was also really fun because although I was only with them for like an hour and a half probably, there was lots and lots of growth from the beginning when I did start with them to the end,” she said. “We worked through everything I wanted to do and it was just really awesome.”

Rob Popescul, who is a visual arts teacher at PACI and grew up with Hunter, was chosen to teach the visual arts component at the camp.

“We are going to be doing some art with chalk pastels and self-portraits in an expressive style,” he said. “I want to teach the kids that art doesn’t always have to be beautiful but it has to be expressive.”

All the instructors enjoy teaching students about art and think it is an important skill to groom.

“I thought that it is good to start at a grassroots level with kids and get them involved in the arts and maybe one day they can come to our school and get involved in the arts here,” Popescul said. “We have a great dance program, drama program and visual arts program and to get the kids started out young and influence them. We need that in Prince Albert.”

“Now that I know exactly what everything is about, it is just a really great opportunity to work with kids and expose them to a bunch of stuff that they may not otherwise be exposed to,” Gauthier added.

In order to make the camp free for children, Hunter said they are still looking for donations to help keep costs down.

“We still definitely need donations to come in to help us create this program as donation based so that anybody, regardless of their financial situation can participate,” she said. “That was something that was really important to me was to make it accessible to everyone.”

Anyone who would like to donate can visit the Facebook page EmpART Art or visit

“Any support people can offer, that would be phenomenal. We do have low costs and we need help from he community to cover it otherwise it is not possible.”

In addition to the arts camp, Hunter is also hosting an interactive arts festival at Kinsmen Park on Saturday at noon.

“People can come and try out some movement exercises and vocal exercises. We are also going to do some art, so people can bring picnics and some snacks and bring crayon and pencil crayons they have and we will do some work with that,” Hunter said. “There will also be some musical performances, I am going to perform a couple things myself and it is at the Kinsmen Amphitheatre at noon.”

Organizations: Prince Albert Collegiate Institute, Kinsmen Amphitheatre

Geographic location: Prince Albert, Kinsmen Park

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