SITKA - The Sitka Fine Arts Camp - a nonprofit dedicated to offering students in remote, Alaska towns the opportunity to explore and strengthen their artistic skills - was recognized nationally on Jan. 28 as one of 18 youth arts and humanities programs to receive the prestigious 2007 Coming Up Taller Award.
Youth and adult representatives of the initiatives traveled to Washington, D.C. for a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, where first lady Laura Bush presented the award.
Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The President's Committee partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities to administer the program, which was founded in 1998.
The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of young people and provide them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities. The awards also highlight the contributions that historians, scholars, librarians and visual and performing artists make to families and communities by mentoring children. More than 350 nominations were received by the program in 2007.
"Arts and humanities activities have a wonderful way of enabling young people to discover their unique talents and interests while forging a path to success in school and life," said Adair Margo, chairman of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. "Sitka Fine Arts Camp cultivates students' interest in and appreciation for arts, empowering them to transform artistic experience into skills and inner strength, which are the groundwork for success."
Through its intensive summer classes, Sitka Fine Arts Camp offers students from across Alaska and the country arts education and interaction with working artists. The camp offers a one-week session for local elementary school students and two-week sessions for middle and high school students.
Students can choose from more than 60 different classes in music, visual arts, dance, writing, theater, Alaska Native art and art technology. Students take five 90-minute classes each day and attend live performances by faculty in the evenings. The sessions culminate in exhibitions of students' projects, as well as performances, all of which are open to the public.
"For 32 years now, Sitka Fine Arts Camp has illuminated and nurtured the creative spark innate in all children," said Roger Schmidt, camp executive director. "Camp opened my eyes to the exciting world of arts. It opened a passion in me and gave me the confidence to pursue a career in music that has led me all over the world and ultimately back to the camp."
Classes focus on the process as well as the product, and foster group interaction, self-discipline, self-discovery and creative risk-taking.
Students in last year's music composition class partnered with students in the choreography class to write music for an original dance called "The Three Little Pigs."
"We could be as creative as we wanted," said TJ Agne, an eighth-grader who has attended Sitka Fine Arts Camp for three years now. Camp has helped Agne tremendously as a musician: playing in the bands and music classes. Camp "has helped with my range and my tone. I was doing more of the things great musicians always say, like 'listen more, play more steadily, use more air,'" he said.
Angne added that the influx of strong young musicians, especially fellow trombone players, helped inspire him to work harder and achieve greater musical heights.
Agne is one of 400 students who participated in Sitka Fine Arts Camp last year. Despite the large number of campers, Sitka Fine Arts Camp succeeded in providing one faculty member for every six students, guaranteeing ample opportunity for personal interaction among students and teachers. Past faculty members have included a feature-film composer, an Emmy-nominated film animator, jazz recording soloists and esteemed Alaska Native artists.
"Just as I was, campers are thrilled to discover talents and interests they never knew they had, from Shakespeare and Athabascan beadwork to clowning and hip-hop dance," Schmidt said. "We are deeply grateful to the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities for their recognition and this prestigious award."
The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities bridges the interests of federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation, and helps incorporate the humanities and the arts into White House objectives. The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education.
The National Endowment for the Humanities' mission is to serve and strengthen the country by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent federal grant making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners.