Young Artists Practice Creativity (and Fun!) at Opus Oaks

Opus Oaks’s Art Camp concludes this week as its young artists prepare to return to school. This year’s camp not only enhanced the artistic and creative skills of its participants but also generated a mixed media mural that will be displayed at events around the area to highlight the amazing skills of local artists.

A young artist practices his skill - Photo Edward Leonard

“The multi-media piece was all done here at the art camp by the artists and students” said art instructor Bonnie Jacobs. “The mural incorporates painting, sculpture, iron work and Batik.”

Jacobs explained that “Batik” is a process for making designs on fabric, much like Tie Dye, using wax on fabric to prevent dye from penetrating the cloth. Jacob said that wax is applied to fabric followed by the dye, often in many successive layers for complex Batiks. Batik creations are always unique because the wax will crackle during handling, either intentionally or not. On subsequent dye baths, the crackles in the wax fill in with darker colors.

On a warm afternoon last week the Opus Oaks studios on Crums Church Road were filled with laughter and occasional squeals of delight as a crowd of youngsters practiced block printing, drawing, painting and other creative skills. The young students, under the creative direction of artists Bonnie Jacobs and Doug Pifer, were having a blast.

“I love coming here because it’s awesome and we can be LOUD” shouts eleven-year-old Maggie McFillen, “which happens a lot!” she laughs.

Students at Opus Oaks are allowed to be loud because the art classes take place outside in a converted barn on the property of Malcolm and Gale Bowman-Harlow’s farm. The students are given the freedom to move between different art projects taking place at stations positioned around the barn but also have the freedom to take a break for less structured activities like a dangling on a tire swing strung from one of many shady oak trees nearby.

Near the barn studio a dozen kids are gathered around a table where the beginnings of a chicken-wire frame is receiving hand-crafted plastic feathers that will soon convert the wire skeleton into a majestic bald eagle.

“The eye of the eagle is made of glass from one of the other workshops here at the studio” Doug Pifer says while gently managing the dozens of hands all attempting to add their own creative design ideas to the bird. Pifer’s warm and gentle instruction method offers the perfect balance to the raw energy and creativity of his young artists.

A bald eagle is one of the many projects that Opus Oaks's 200 art camp students participated in - photo Edward Leonard

“The design started with an egg-shaped ball of wire then the kids added the wings and used copper wire for the legs” Pifer says. “The older kids did the wire frame and the young kids spray painted tin foil and soda bottle pieces for the wings.

Nearby an exquisitely designed cow – the kids have named him Archie – and felt raccoon stand next to two stylized blacksmiths who will soon be adorned with Batik-designed clothing.

The eagle, raccoon, as well as Archie the cow will all eventually be added to the multi-media mural.

“We’ve got a very talented group here” smile Bonnie Jacobs.

This year’s Opus Oaks art camp, which included workshops for   adults as well, touched the lives of over 200 children aged eight to fifteen years according to Jacobs.

The Opus Oaks art camp was made possible by donations from the Marion Park Lewis Foundation, established in 1992, to provide arts education opportunities to residents of the northern Shenandoah Valley and from George and Manci Ohrstrom’s Hopewell Foundation which covered the cost of the camp’s instructors.

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  1. great article, thanks so much