Summer camp for artists

JDU's Summer Arts Festival offers classes from printmaking to Haitian jazz and culminates in performances by the students

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Four piles of wood form a rough square on the floor of the Juneau-Douglas High School commons.

By the end of Juneau Dance Unlimited's Summer Arts Festival, they will have transformed into an immense spider, hidden like a fossil inside a rock.

The spider is one element of the final performance of guest instructor Jun Maeda's stage design class, which has spent the last four weeks building miniature spiders and snakes, then moving slowly upward to larger models.

"Sometimes I use natural (materials)," Maeda said, slowly turning a crown of woven willow bark over in his hands as he spoke. "Some times, I use plastic. I don't mind."

Many of the classes at the summer camp are similarly geared toward the experimental. Guest instructors from around the world spend two to four weeks in Juneau, working with adults and children to learn new skills or enhance existing ones. Their work is complemented by local instructors, many of whom once went through the camp themselves.

"I'm just thrilled by the amount of talent there is here," said Christian Fletcher, musical theater instructor.

Fletcher, who teaches at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City, is a first-time instructor at the camp. He's working with three age groups that range from third-graders singing "Oliver!" and "The Sound of Music," to adults tackling pieces from "Carousel."

"This is the first time we've had singing in that range," said Betsy Kunibe, camp director. "He's giving 100 percent to the third graders as much as he's giving to the semi-professional singers."

Other classes include arts such as beadwork and printmaking, and numerous types of dance with guest instructor Anthony Manuel, who has an ongoing relationship with Juneau Dance Unlimited and visits town annually to instruct.


Visiting instructor: Christian Fletcher, right, of New York, directs students in the musical class of the Summer Arts Festival at Juneau-Douglas High School. The students from left are Alison Bremner, 11, Kari Glass, 11, Erin Chalmers, 12, Rena Dalman, 13, Savannah Euler, 10, Madison Hardy, 12, TJ Merry, 13, and Miles Bowe, 10. Fletcher teaches at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City.


"This year I'm dealing more with the teen and adult (groups)," Manuel said. "I base all my works off the energy that's there on the spot."

His classes include hip hop, Haitian jazz, and fusion and lyrical dance. He takes over from previous instructors Genevieve Carson and Angela Fowler, both JDHS graduates and former students at the camp.

"(Manuel) can only make two weeks, so I said, 'Fine. Come for two weeks. That's better than nothing,'" Kunibe said with a laugh. "People go crazy. He's fantastic."

Drama classes are another highlight of the camp. Several students listed them as a favorite.

"I like drama because we get to do a lot of games," said 11-year-old Kari Glass. "I like acting and want to be an actress when I grow up."

Miles Bowe, 10, has a similar goal. After a family member tipped him off about the camp, he came from Connecticut to attend.

"I've been to a lot of camps," Miles said. "I like this one. I really would like to be in the theater. ... Even though I did have a 19-hour flight, I think it all paid off."

Jonathan Leavy, the camp's drama instructor, will try to help these aspiring actors meet their goals.

"I'm rooted in improvisation," he said. "My style is much more about tapping into the authenticity of the individual."

He lets his classes discuss what they want to pursue for their final performance.

"I get the feeling that this camp is dedicated to enhancing special skills ... You can discover what your interest is here," Leavy said.

The workshops will culminate in a series of performances. The first is an appearance at Concert in the Park on Friday. Two more shows follow: A drama sharing and visual art show will be held on June 28, and a dance, musical theater and singing performance will take place on June 29.

"It will be dances from all three different camps," Kunibe said. "We're going to have adults in the finale also. ... They (all) love to perform."

Admission to both shows is free.

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