By Erika Webb
Spirits were running high at the Museum of Florida Art last week as Camp Create let out for the day.
Children ranging in age from six to 12 ran around -- some literally around the table. Others scurried to collect their artwork and gather their belongings to go home.
Audrey Brown, 6, of DeLand couldn't contain herself. She ran, she babbled. It takes energy to create. Audrey has a surplus.
Entirely too busy to extol the virtues of this uniquely fashioned summer camp, or discuss the details of her yellow and orange monkey, black curve on its midsection -- "Look! It's like a frown on his belly"-- she briefly summarized her experience.
"I like it because we don't have to go outside very long and I get hot when I go outside too long," Audrey said. "It's not like tennis camp ... I hate tennis camp ... you have to stay outside all day long."
Over in art instructor Tiffany Blushiy's room, shapes, colors and textures abound.
Joseph Garcia, 9, a student at George Marks Elementary School in DeLand was recommended for a scholarship to the summer art camp by his art teacher.
Proudly he talked about the elaborate sculpture he completed in two days.
Faces and figures using shapes was the lesson assigned by Ms. Blushiy, an art teacher at Freedom Elementary School in DeLand. A box of leftover toys, various buttons, marbles, pipe cleaners, feathers, cotton balls, keys and other collected castoffs were used to build each child's masterpiece.
The keys were used for, among other things, earrings, dogs' feet, a guitar and a banjo.
"They started with (an) eyes, nose, mouth figure," Ms. Blushiy said. "If they wanted to, they could add another figure."
Then she encouraged students to set their imaginations free and build on the figure to create a story-telling, two-sided work of art.
"I was just looking for stuff and I found these platforms. I put it together and it looked like a Superman sign," Joseph said.
One side of his sculpture featured a small piece of linoleum flooring cut into a square. Two perfectly white buttons expressed wide-eyed helplessness as the diminutive character he created cowered at the bottom of the piece.
Turn it around and it's a whole different scenario. Superman -- black feathers for hair and pipe cleaner glasses -- wielded a plastic avenger-ish creature, topped with another toy's head. The personified super-weapon looked mighty effective.
"They find things and it starts evolving," Ms. Blushiy said. "It all comes out and comes together. They keep it a theme."
One little girl started out with the perfunctory eyes, nose and mouth. A pet was added using the different sized and shaped linoleum pieces. Other adornments followed.
"By the last day she found lace and decided it was a bride and groom," Ms. Blushiy said.
Two blue marbles served as the wedding rings.
Camp coordinator Bonny Bryan said she has volunteered at the museum for years but this is her first experience working directly with Camp Create.
"I love working with all of the different teachers and the kids, seeing them create and blossom," Ms. Bryan said.
A background in both psychology and art gives her the tools needed to run this operation. Ms. Bryan taught art in Volusia County schools for four years and lessons at Art and Soul, an art supply store she owned in Orange City.
Many of the weekly themes for the seven week camp, dubbed It's ELEMENTary My Dear Artist, were her inspiration. They include: What's My Line?, Shape Shifter, Don't Be A Square, What's Black, White and Gray All Over, Knock, Knock -- Hue's There, Can You Feel It? and Spaced Out.
The camps are focused on the elements of art and artists. Using artistry, they are designed to foster problem solving skills.
"They're getting an education instead of just doing arts and crafts or creating something," Ms. Bryan explained.
Using an exhibit on display at the museum: Sequined Sentinels: Haitian Flags from the collection of Candice Russell, students are influenced by all of the colors, shapes and stories the magnificent pieces portray.
The flags are adorned with different-sized sequins and Czechoslovakian glass beads found in and around the Iron Market in Port-au-Prince.
Labor intense cannot begin to describe the effort put into the exquisite flags.
"We look at these shapes and it looks a lot like cubism in Picasso, very simplified," Ms. Blushiy said.
In a lesson being taken from the exhibit, campers are creating their own lore-bearing flags to be assembled onto a banner for display at the museum on Aug. 17.
Hanging in Ms. Blushiy's room are a panda flag and a snake flag ready to be vertically stacked on fabric and embellished to create the banner.
"It's looking at patterns, colors and their simplified forms," Ms. Blushiy explained. "When you look at it it's very geometric and simple."
She really gets into this.
Aside from seeing the kids get excited, as Joseph did when those two shapes spoke to him, saying "Superman," it thrills the art teacher, who only has each student for 35 minutes weekly in the public school setting, to watch these students create in two days what usually takes nine weeks.
"There are 12 kids in this class and I have them for three hours a day," she said. "You can get a lot done."
A circus master emerged from the first-step facial features of one student's sculpture. His beard was made of black feathers. His handlebar mustache added pomp and evoked ceremonial anticipation. Across the top on other side of the sculpture a pipe-cleaner tight rope was strung.
The student held her breath along with the rest of the world as Nik Wallenda made his courageous way -- 1,500 feet in the air -- across the Little Colorado Gorge near the Grand Canyon. The next day she came to art camp, and will likely leave ... inspired.
Camp Create runs through the first week of August. For information call the Museum of Florida Art at (386) 734-4371 or visit MuseumofFloridaArt.org.