A goal of the Island Institute’s fellows program is to provide self-sustaining programming with a positive impact on the community. Vinalhaven’s fellow in the performing arts, Karen Burns, took a giant step in that direction this summer as she headed up the island’s first Performing Arts Camp.

In association with the Vinalhaven School Enrichment Committee, Burns developed the idea for a performing arts camp by looking at North Haven’s Summer Theater Workshops. She offered 14 workshops in acting, dancing, writing, puppetry and creative movement – for children entering kindergarten through adults. Due to insufficient enrollment, only three workshops actually took place.

Despite the abbreviated schedule, Burns is counting the camp a success. “It went really well,” she said. “I have been getting a lot of positive feedback from parents.” And the three workshops that were held served 25 children, 20 of whom were islanders, nearly ten percent of Vinalhaven’s K-12 population. In addition to serving the community, Performing Arts Camp raised over $500 for the Vinalhaven School Enrichment Committee (VSEC).

“It was a really productive fundraiser,” said Burns, “because it provided a service for the community and raised money for future programs in the school.” Burns hired actor and longtime summer resident Jamie McLaren to teach The Young Actor I and II. McLaren spent time playing theater games with his students, helping them get used to being on stage, and teaching them the fine art of clowning.

Students in the third through fifth grade group adopted and developed clown personalities, created routines and performed them for friends and parents on the last day of the workshop.

Kathy Warren’s son, Trey, age 10, took the clowning workshop. Kathy was pleased with many aspects of the program. “It was a nice activity for VSEC to offer in the summer,” she said. “I was impressed that it was mostly local kids who were involved, and they were the kids who wanted to be there.

“Jamie did a great job,” she continued. “Trey had a really good time. He was most impressed with learning to “hit” someone without really hitting them, and being goofy for a reason. Typical ten-year-old stuff!” she said.

The third session of the summer was called “Dance the Day Away,” taught by Boston dancer and choreographer Suzi Bibilos. This was meant as an introductory class in which Bibilos taught her students a lot of basic moves, including kicks and triplets. The class spent the week learning a hip-hop routine to Britney Spears’s “Outrageous.” According to Burns, “the kids came a really long way in a week.”

Both of Karen Candage’s daughters participated in Performing Arts Camp. Jenny, age 11, took dancing and Bethany, age 8, took both clowning and dancing. Karen felt the camp was a very good experience for both of her kids. “They both got a lot out of it,” she said. “I was a little disappointed that more kids didn’t take advantage of it. Jenny was really looking forward to the clowning [which was cancelled for her age group.]”

Jenny, however, did enjoy her dance class. “I thought it was fun,” she said. “I also took Karen [Burns’s] class during the school year.” As for next year, Burns already has a few ideas to improve the program and boost enrollment. “It will be done a bit differently,” she explained. “Registration will be done at the beginning of each session, and more sessions will be held in July. August is busier and harder [for people to commit to.] Plus,” she said, “I think more people are already planning on it for next year.” As a potential writing student whose class was cancelled, I, for one, surely hope so!