Camps are all about art at Valparaiso University

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Madelynn Wills, 9, works on a project during an All About Art at VU summer camp in Valparaiso, Ind., on Friday, June 15, 2012. The camp continues in July with sessions for advanced students and children with special needs. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media

At a glance

Advanced art camp is being offered July 2-6 at Valparaiso University; special needs camp is scheduled July 9-13. For complete information, visit or email Jane Lohmeyer at

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For 10 years, hundreds of area children have been able to explore their artistic abilities through summer art camps offered at Valparaiso University. This year, though, the staff has added an extra camp geared to special needs students — adding a smaller size, more one-on-one attention and projects chosen just for them.

Jody Nix of Valparaiso is co-director and teacher for All About Art Camps at VU. She said the special needs camp idea has been in the works for two years.

“All of our camps have always been able to accommodate special needs students,” she explained. “However, we have been approached several times by parents of special needs children, desiring a smaller classroom size with more individualized attention.”

Nix said they were able to finally offer the camp this year because of a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.

“Our goal is to make the community aware of this new camp and to also provide these families with an enrichment experience for their children, one that is not usually available to them. We would also like to offer the camp in the future, at little to no cost to them,” she said.

Terese Maletta will be the instructor for the Special Needs Students’ Workshop. During the year, she teaches art at Chesterton High School.

“I am really excited about working with the VU summer art camp for the first time,” she said. “I frequently am blessed with having these (special needs) students in my classes at CHS and am always amazed at their creativity. I chose to participate this year when I found out the special needs component would be a part of the program.”

Maletta said the camp will give her a chance to gear all the pro-jects toward their unique needs.

“This summer we hope to work in clay, watercolor and with glass,” she said. “I incorporate a lot of fused, stained and mosaic glass in my classes at CHS and hope to include some of that in the art camp. I don’t think this has ever been done before within this program.”

Maletta believes these individuals possess talents that are often overlooked.

“My dream is to one day have a venue in which special needs adults could work and sell their art as a career. For me, this is a chance to see how artists, teachers and special needs students can work together to create, express and enjoy art,” she said.

The art camp teachers would like to see about 10 students in each of the elementary and secondary special needs camps, Nix said, and scholarships are available for each of the camps.

“We are in our 10th year,” Nix said, “after Richard Brauer and Fred Frey of VU approached art teachers Patricia Cummings, Jane Lohmeyer, and myself with the idea of creating an art camp at the university. Its mission was to not only offer a great art experience beyond the classroom for children, but to also help make local families aware of the campus.”

She said the Brauer Art Museum is a critical component of the structure of the camps so the students and their families are exposed to both the university and its art collections.

Nix said the summer camps have grown from one camp offered the first summer to six this year. Each camp has a roster of 20 to 30 students mainly coming from Porter County, however, they have also had students from other counties attend, as well as children from other states.

“Our 2-D and 3-D camps are primarily for ages 9 to 11 (grades three to five), and our advanced camp is typically for the middle-aged student or those who have attended prior camps,” she said. “Our special needs camp will accommodate both elementary and secondary-aged students.”

She added the new camp will incorporate media such as clay, paper mache, plaster, canvas and acrylic paints.