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SIA Camp Draws Students to Art

More than 300 students participate in summer program.

Three weeks of Summer in the Arts (SIA) school is not enough for 11-year-old Kevin Sabik.

“I think it should be a little bit longer,” said Sabik, a rising sixth-grader at Belmont Ridge Middle School, two days before the final showcase Saturday when more than 300 students presented art exhibits and performances. The showcase was the result of students taking two to three workshops for four hours a day in art, music, drama, dance, creative writing, videography, computer applications, culinary arts and foreign languages.

Kevin, a first-time SIA participant, signed up for culinary arts and ceramics in the two fields he is considering for a career, that of becoming a chef or an artist. “I really wanted to learn instead of just hanging out [this summer]. It seems better. You actually learn something instead of just watching TV,” he said.

Sixteen-year-old Jennifer Hardy participated in the SIA camp to try something new and took mural painting, drawing and voice classes. “It allows you to explore things you can’t do in school and to use different materials,” said the Loudoun Valley High School rising junior. “I really recommend this program. I really do, and it needs to be longer.”

THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS offered more than 50 workshops for the SIA camp, which was held in the classrooms of Stone Bridge High School from June 23-July 12 for rising sixth- to 12th-graders. Rising sixth-graders were incorporated into the main program this year instead of separated to a different site. The sixth-graders took workshops with rising seventh-graders or general classes for grades 6-12, while students in the upper grades took workshops for rising seventh- to 12th-graders, along with general classes.

The 2003 SIA camp included the addition of more advanced classes and the first foreign language arts classes, which were in Spanish and Chinese. Kerri Quinlan-Zhou, SIA program coordinator, adds a new component to the camp program every year. Last year, she added workshops to allow rising fifth-graders to participate, workshops in creative writing and journalism and advanced workshops in drama, drawing, sculpture and show choir. What she adds next year will depend on the results of program surveys given to students, parents and workshop teachers on July 11.

“I think the word has gotten out,” said Quinlan Zhou, who took over SIA in 2001, when 105 students participated, compared to more than 350 students this year. “I’ve pounded the pavement to make sure the word’s gotten out because it’s such a wonderful program.”

Word of mouth is how Kallee Mueller, a rising seventh-grader at River Bend Middle School, found out about the program through the recommendation of her friends. “It’s really fun. Even if you don’t know anything in the subject, you can always learn,” she said.

THE SIA PROGRAM allows students to choose what they want to study and to focus on a particular subject, such as watercolor or multimedia in the visual arts; music theater, show choir or mixed chorus in the performing arts; and ballet, popular dance or modern and jazz dance, all varieties of dance.

“The students get to choose specific genres. They get to place themselves in classes … and they get to choose what they want to do,” Quinlan-Zhou said, adding that unlike traditional gifted programs, students do not need to audition or present a portfolio to participate in SIA, though they will experience the same type of environment as a gifted program. Their teachers are working professionals and teachers who have expertise in the subjects and can present the material at a more in-depth level. About 30 teachers taught the workshops this year, compared to about 20 teachers in summer 2002.

“It’s very hands-on real world,” said Donna Grant-Sprudyz, a professional nationwide singer who is teaching show choir, mixed choir and a voice class. She owns a piano and voice studio in Ashburn, where she lives. “I’ve had so many kids say to me, ‘But this is school.’ I say no. I try to give them a sense of the real world.”

Ryan Johnson, a 15-year-old attending Loudoun County High School, participated in the program for the second summer in a row. “I like everything about it. There’s nothing I don’t like,” he said. He took creative writing 2, computer graphic arts and journalism, the same subjects he took last year. “I’d suggest Summer in the Arts to anyone.”

OTHER STUDENTS surprise their parents and teachers by choosing workshops in subjects they have not tried before. “They choose to take so many different things,” Quinlan-Zhou said, adding that those students want to try something new. “They push themselves out of the boundaries.”

Seventeen-year-old Sara Forney took mixed media and printmaking, wanting to take nontraditional art classes. “I’ve used so much stuff, it’s unreal,” the Park View High School student said about using sand, salt, cardboard and wood in her art projects. “It doesn’t have to be cookie-cutter. It can be crazy and abstract and still be art.”

The public schools has offered the SIA camp since 1980. The camp's annual registration fee is $225, which is reduced if more than one student from a family participates. Students do not pay the fee or pay a reduced fee if they receive scholarships through art awards, participate in the apprenticeship program in exchange for full tuition or receive assistance on a need basis. The School Board approves the annual operating budget for the program, which was budgeted at $68,600 for fiscal year 2003 and is proposed at $84,100 for FY '04.

At the conclusion of the program each year, an Arts Explosion showcases the work of students through recitals and exhibits. “The Arts — Here, There and Everywhere” was held July 12 at Stone Bridge High School.