Scenes from arts camp the way summer intended it

To a child’s mind, summer begins at the last bell on the last day of school. To a child’s heart, it often begins on the first day of summer camp. After two years of making the best of “virtual summer” with online classes and video activities, a day in the life of an LBC camper this year promises to refresh their faith in the season like a juicy slice of cool watermelon. “For most kids, this is the closest thing to normal summertime that they’ve experienced in two years,” said Ashleigh Worley, Director of Education and Community Engagement.

This summer, LBC held three arts camps for 200 children, ranging from first grade to high school, in Sonoma Valley, Santa Rosa, and Cloverdale. To get a sense of just how vivid that experience feels after two years of virtual camping, step into a few scenes taking place on a day in the life of LBC Summer Arts Campers at the Santa Rosa location last month.

Mariachi Camp – Luna Naranja, Intermediate instrument skills

Three rows of young musicians divided into sections: guitars, violins, trumpets, vilhuelas, guitarrons, and harp, all facing instructor Sara Flores at the front of the room. Only the campers with the violins are playing. Suddenly, a voice too deep to come from a student rumbles gently up from the far end of the first row. “Violin up!” Look carefully, and you see José Soto, Music Specialist and Director of LBC’s Mariachi Ensemble, suddenly visible among the children.

“You’re looking for an even tempo, like a huge army marching,” José says in a loud encouraging tone.  “BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Left. Right. Left. Right! This is a monster. He is huge! He sounds huge! Hwah! Hwah! Hwah! Hwah!” All violinists snap their backs straight, take the slack out of their arms, and raise their instruments a few inches closer to their face.


At one end of Comstock’s vast gymnasium, 16 students (5th grade and up), poised in two rows, take eight side-steps to the right across the mirror-polished wood floor. They take eight steps to the left, then tap the tops of their sneakers, as instructors Joel Cruz Rosas, Victor Ferrer, and Vanessa Carrillo look on. After rehearsing a few steps, Victor turns on the music, and the group syncopates all the steps into the makings of Ballet Folklórico with a flow that forgets it all started in steps.

Suddenly, music wafts in from the courtyard. Music from a trumpet, guitar, guitarrón, and two violins rises up with a chorus of children’s voices: Cariño! Que nació de la nada/Sin saber se convierte/En sublime obsesión. When they finish, José stands tall. What does the rooster do?” He bends low and then stands, lifts his chest high, and creates a sound that would fool any farmer awake. “To make their sounds, they must be relaxed. Relax your shoulders. Relax your necks. Don’t strain or you can’t make your sound! Let’s try again.” The children repeat the song, stronger, louder, happier.

Creative drama camp

Eight campers follow camp assistant teaching artist Peri Zoe Yildrim-Stanley, volunteer Laura Martinez Perez, and a boxful of puppets outside. Annie Cooper, teaching artist, calls the remaining eight 1st – 3rd graders into a circle, unfolds a large brown paper heart in the center so that its edges nearly touch the 10 little knees surrounding it. “We can use our feelings when we act,” says Annie. “This is a game about taking care of our hearts.” In the book, Chrysanthemum loves her name until the first day of school, when some children make fun of it. “As I read, every time someone says something mean, one of us will make a wrinkle in the paper heart,” Annie explains. After a few pages, wrinkles in the shape of tiny fists begin to outline the heart. When Chrysanthemum gets home, her parents cheer her up. “Saying nice things makes us feel better,” says Annie, and they all reach into the center to smooth out the paper heart.

Break Time

On the walk across campus, the sights and sounds of recess fill the courtyard. Visual arts campers play Uno at two tables. Between the Visual Arts and Creative Drama classrooms, a tiny youngster faces a tree, counting from 1 to 20. “Ready or not, here I come!” A swing set across the yard squeaks a musical rhythm. Lyrical chatter bubbles up from all directions. When breaktime nears an end, two volunteers playing guitar walk into the courtyard like troubadours.

Advanced visual arts camp

The quietest room on campus is filled with 17 middle and high school students, sitting around three tables covered in well-used white canvas stained with haphazard lines of purple, magenta, and blue paint. Some campers are squeezing paint markers to create pink and purple patterns on a page. Angelica Blancas-Mims, teaching artist, writes the definitions of pattern, repetition, and shape in green marker on the white board. One young artist picks up a large paintbrush. Her nose almost touches the paper as she whisks short strokes with the thick wide end of the brush. Swish. Swish. Swish. Like wind through leaves.

Beginning visual art camp

Twenty-six up-and coming artists, 3rd grade and higher, fidget at tables arranged in a large U shape. Maria Trejo, teaching artist, staff members Maria Canas and Dagan Stras, and volunteer Vanessa Zavala disperse among them. This is not the quietest room at camp. Multi-colored pencils, crayons, and markers are hard at work, as are the ideas and opinions freely called out among the campers. “I’m drawing the funny bone. Who has brown?” “Do you know what one looks like?” “Of course!” “Why is your panther smiling; they’re mean.” “This one is happy.” “Make it a fat black line!” “Can I do another one?”

Childhood in a flip book

Two years covers a lot of shaping, growing, and changing for kids as they move from stage to developmental stage like the pages of a flip book. To the youngest camper in first grade, two years might be one-third of her lifespan so far. To the 7th grader, it is nearly the entire middle school experience. Thanks to the generosity of Sonoma County Vintners Foundation and Sonoma County Folk Society, as well as our members and donors, 258 children in the North Bay will be shaping new impressions of summer at one of LBC’s three arts camps before the school year starts

A celebration for campers and their families was held at LBC on July 22. It featured an art show and main-stage performances from students participating in the Santa Rosa, Creative Drama, Dance, Mariachi, and Visual Art Camps.

Photos of Summer Camp 2022

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