First middle school art camp held at Oak Mountain

NORTH SHELBY – Shelby County Schools’ first summer art camp was so well received that it had to split over two weeks to accommodate more students.

The first week of the camp was held June 4-8 at Oak Mountain Middle School, with group taking part from June 11-15, from 9 a.m. to noon each day.

About 25 students registered for the camp.

OMMS art teacher Al Cecil transferred to the school about two years ago after spending about 15 years teaching art in elementary schools, including Montevallo and Mt Laurel in the Shelby County school system.

Cecil said he expressed a desire to hold a summer art camp to Janet Gulledge, youth enrichment manager for SCS.

“We agreed it was something these kids really need,” Cecil said.

Projects undertaken at the camp include tie-dyed T-shirts, acrylic on canvas, ceramics and more—even one student creating a mural to be featured in the school’s art courtyard.

Josh Jallah said Cecil approached him about the project, which he was working on during the camp.

The mural will incorporate images representative of the school, such as an eagle, sports and academics.

Though the mural may have been the most complex project underway at the camp, other pieces, such as pottery, can take days to complete.

“I’ve been stressing to them that art is a process; it’s not immediate,” Cecil said. “Our main objective is to create.”

Sisters JoJo and Grace Smith said they have taken art classes in school and also have learned from an aunt who creates diverse pieces including paintings, pottery, jewelry and more.

“I love to paint. It’s my comfort zone,” said JoJo Smith, who will enter the eighth grade in the fall.

“I like pottery because I like getting messy,” rising sixth grader Grace Smith said.

The camp was open to all students in the Shelby County system, entering grades 4-8.

Some older students from Cecil’s classes at OMMS served as assistants.

Cecil said art is one of the few studies that could have students ages 7-15 working together.

“Art spans the ages,” Cecil said. “They love it, and that’s what makes my job easy. I always tell them, ‘I’m just the crazy guy with the crayons—you guys are the artists.’”

Cecil has also started an art club at Oak Mountain Middle School.

Though elementary students study art each week, middle school students often do not take art as they choose other electives, such as band.

The club is a way for young artists to maintain the practice even if they can not fit it in their regular school schedules.