Arts program gives kids a free rein Summer sessions let 200 children explore music, drawing, dance.


On a beautiful summer day at Goucher College, several youngsters sprawl on a lobby sofa.

Minutes later, they convene in several of Goucher College's music rooms to sing and play musical instruments on the otherwise quiet campus.

In other buildings, visual art students wrestle with cardboard. Painters illustrate models in motion. Ballet and modern dance students perform complex -- and acrobatic -- balancing exercises.

"Something new will happen at every minute," says Ric Wagner, a Creativity and the Arts instructor at the 24th annual Maryland Summer Center for the Arts.

The Center for the Arts began this summer's first two-week session with 200 seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders from around the state. Ninth- through 12th-graders will attend the other two sessions that are scheduled.

During the program at Goucher, nearly 600 students will take courses in nine areas of art taught by instructors from all over the country.

"These kids will leave here with beautiful experiences," says Jan Tievsky, a ballet and modern dance instructor with the program for the past 11 years. "The opportunity to live in an artist's environment will ultimately help them discover who they are and become more self-directed."

"I thought this class was going to be drawing and stuff. I don't want crafts," complains 14-year-old Robert Trexler from Essex.

Trexler, a student in three-dimensional art, grumbles as he works on his project -- creating out of cardboard and tape a fantasy animal that is part tiger and part dragon.

"Baby Doll, don't do that," says Rene Townsend, his instructor, as Trexler fumbles with his creation. "Think about structure."

Townsend instructs him to "score" the material, cutting the cardboard with a knife to allow it to break evenly.

"I try to let the kids lead me," says Townsend, a sculptor from Chicago. "They already know certain things and are usually curious about the rest. It's intuitive for them to explore."

Christopher Heid, a painting and drawing student, enthusiastically volunteers to model for the class as students continue an exercise in drawing gestures.

"Since the first model was a thin girl, I wanted to model because I have an entirely different body type. I wanted to do my part in helping the class experience something new," he says.

There are only 20 students in most of the courses. The larger classes -- Concert Band, Chorus, and Painting and Drawing -- divide into smaller groups to allow for more individual growth.

"We want to give our students what they cannot get during the regular school year," says Ray Zeigler, director of the Center for the Arts. "This center thrives on individual attention for all the kids and the creative process resulting from that attention."

"Most of the students respond positively to the independence," though some get frustrated, adds Zeigler.

Townsend says her students work through their frustration.

"Artists never give up," she declares.

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