Editor’s Note — Nebraska Today’s Annie Albin spent five days at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Cedar Point Biological Station to highlight the studies and work of students, faculty and staff there. This is the second in a series of stories about Cedar Point.
It’s another morning at Cedar Point Biological Station.
Undergraduate students mingle in the dining hall before their labs. Graduate researchers prepare their nets to capture field specimen to study. And nearby, a bus winds its way up the gravel path leading to the station. Onboard are about three dozen local elementary and middle school students from the Keith County area. As they pull into the station, they are greeted by their camp counselors — four University of Nebraska–Lincoln fine arts students.
The Art Adventure Camp at Cedar Point was started in 2016 and since then has provided local children with the opportunity to work and play alongside college students trained at the Hixson-Lied College of Fine and Performing Arts. Between art projects, they grab snacks, play games and take in the Cedar Point scenery.
Hannah Demma, a graduate student, has been a counselor for the camp since its early years. She returned again during summer 2021 to take on the role of camp coordinator. As an abstract artist, Demma looks for opportunities to create work that has a social impact. For her, Art Adventure Camp allows her to combine her skills as an artist and an educator.
“I make more of an impact working with kids,” Demma said. “I feel like I’m making a difference, or just being a part of their lives.”
Demma works alongside undergraduate students Kat Morrow and Joselyn Andreasen and recent graduate Grace Orwen. When campers pour in, the group goes into action.
Camp activities consist of outdoor sketches of the Sandhills skyline, hikes through the bluffs with visiting researchers and science-influenced art activities. One day, after a hike with an entomologist, the campers drew depictions of the bugs they had caught and studied.
“I also think it gives them an appreciation for science … if they didn’t necessarily think of themselves as good at science, but you’re like: ‘Have you looked at how beautiful this damselfly is? Why is his stomach red?’” Demma said.
Appreciation for art and nature is intertwined into the curriculum of the camp, as well as the idea that all art is valued. It also breaks away from the mold of the traditional art class and introduces students to new forms of expression.
“We try to offer some more fine art skills or things that they wouldn’t necessarily do at a normal summer camp or at school,” Demma said.
Those fine art projects include sculpting pouches, creating a colored-pencil panorama and adorning walking sticks with their own artistic styles.
On their last day, students admired the tie-dye creations they had carefully colored the day before. As they showed off their work to their counselors and coordinator, they marked the end to their four-day art learning experience. While they left the camp with tie-dye t-shirts, walking sticks and pouches in tow, they also left with new ideas and ambitions.
One of Morrow’s favorite parts of the camp is that it introduces campers to the notion that they can one day be artists.
“It’s fun to do this because then you can also show kids, ‘look at all of these adult painters,’” Morrow said.