DAVID BERGELAND/Durango Herald
When it comes to summer vacations, the word “intensive” probably is one of the last words any kid would use to describe that most cherished time of the year.
And yet 13 middle-school girls not only spent the first two weeks since school let out back in a classroom but felt privileged to have the opportunity.
“This is really fun because we don’t get as much time to do art at school,” said Mady Brand, who will move from Needham Elementary to Miller School this fall when she starts sixth grade.
Mady and her fellow young artists are the 2012 class of Girls Opportunities through Art and Leadership, or GOAL, at the Durango Arts Center. The two-week summer intensive arts camp was created in 2002 and modeled after the Georgia O’Keeffe program for girls in Santa Fe. The program offers middle-school girls opportunities for skill building and problem solving in the areas of identity, creativity and self-esteem, with an emphasis on artmaking and artist role models through studio art camp experiences.
“This isn’t a baby-sitting session; this is their passion,” said Jane Steele, the GOAL coordinator who spends six hours a day with the youngsters during the summer intensive.
The GOAL girls are nominated by teachers, parents and friends for the program. The girls spend their time focusing on the visual arts in the areas of painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, photography, printmaking and collage with an added exploration each day on creative writing, poetry and movement.
They get mentoring from local artists and teachers – on one day, Molly Anderson-Childers taught writing skills; a day later, Roxy Mitchell from Durango High School gave photography pointers; and earlier this week, Steele’s sister-in-law, Simone Steele, was in town from Denver to give hula-dancing lessons.
“It’s really fun because there are so many opportunities here. I wish we had more of this in school,” said Sadie Schafer of Hesperus, who will attend Mountain Middle School as a sixth-grader this fall.
Steele said there usually is a theme for each GOAL session, and this year’s is “Open Doors.” The girls each designed and created a gateway sculpture and then painted a background for it during a separate session.
The theme struck a particular nerve with future Miller sixth-grader Ava Stills. She painted a mostly gray background with a bright red heart that jumps off the canvas.
“I love my painting and my art and wanted to express life with it,” Ava said. “It’s mostly gray, but it pops with color sometimes like this heart. And my gate doesn’t open because that’s like life, too – the doors are always there, but they don’t always open for you, either.”
The summer intensive ended Thursday, so for the next couple of months, the GOAL girls will settle into a more traditional summer vacation mode. But the summer intensive is only the beginning for GOAL, and the girls will again have a chance to augment their scholastic arts education. The fall and winter sessions of GOAL are shorter versions of the summer intensive with a greater concentration of work in one or two arts areas.