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By Amber Fossen Ashland Daily Tidings

A new weeklong day camp will debut in June as a transition from school to summer. Unlike other camps, which focus on science and math, this camp will intertwine art and nature to become the first fine arts camp at EarthTeach outside Ashland.

Art, nature mix at summer camp
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Tish McFadden and Sarah Cotton, 7, make music in the outdoors for a demonstration of a new fine arts camp set for June in the mountains east of Ashland. Ashland Daily Tidings/DENISE BARATTA

The idea to have a camp with an artistic base began after Ashland resident and parent Martha Phelps Cotton learned of a similar program in Eugene. Cotton's daughter attended a camp at the University of Oregon where she spent a week submerged in everything from watercolors to dance to music.
"I was personally very, very touched and blown away that here are these teachers who are artists and performers in their own right and yet they teach," Cotton said.
The experience planted a seed.
Cotton approached Tish McFadden, a children's music educator and co-creator of Fine Arts at EarthTeach, with an idea to encompass all arts into a camp for students.
The concept was an easy sell.
"So many kids in this world right now spend a lot of time in front of screens," McFadden said. "It's going to give them an incredible counter-point to that."
McFadden said she envisioned students sculpting by creek beds or taking guitar lessons in the grass. And, as more ideas were generated, the concept began to take shape, resulting in a weeklong camp with plenty to offer.
Students age 6 through 16 can choose from more than 30 classes under the categories of Instrumental and Vocal Arts, Theatre and Storytelling Arts, Visual and Written Arts, and Dance and Movement Arts.
Student activities begin by 9 a.m. and conclude at 3 p.m., or at 5 p.m. if students participate in an after-arts extended adventure.
The end of the camp will also bring students together for a bonfire, complete with performances and a potluck.
Cotton and McFadden said finding ways to bring the art community together is especially important because artists don't often have opportunities to interact and share.
"This could potentially be a great way for people of the art community to be connected," Cotton said. "It would be great, if for an entire week, they could come together."
For local storyteller Tom Doty, the chance to work with other artists on a concept de-signed by artists was something he wasn't about to pass up.
"What I consider an unusual and rare opportunity is the chance to be around other artists," Doty said. "And it's being put together by people who not only know the place but also the arts. The kids that get to go to this are lucky."
Doty said the rare energy the art community creates will be felt among participants.
"You really feel the energy of the group and the dedication and that counts for a lot," he said.
Doty is one of 15 artist/teachers who will be leading camp activities. Camp organizers said more staff would be added if there is enough community interest.
Fine Arts at EarthTeach, scheduled June 16-20.Tuition runs $250 for the week with an additional $75 for students who participate in the after-camp program.
Students must register no later than May 15. However, a grace period will extend to June 1, after which there will be a late fee of $25.
Cotton and McFadden said scholarships would be available because they "don't want money to be prohibitive to the diversity of the camp."
For additional information and registration materials, call 482-4572 or e-mail Cotton at phelps@mind.net or McFadden at rumtum@mind.net. Brochures are also available at all Ashland Elementary School offices.