Smile Politely

Better than free? One People keeps improving Summer Arts Camp

What do you think of when you hear the word “summer”? For me, it’s all about festivals, outdoor activities, concerts, ice-cream in the park, street fests, long days, hot nights and all kinds of foods on a stick. For kids, it’s no school, waterparks, and summer camps. But for parents, summer can mean longer work days and costly child care. With schools being out for the summer, parents still have to work and summer camps can be very expensive. One People’s Summer Arts Camp seeks to be different and make a difference by offering a free enrichment program to the kids in the C-U area. In its fourth year, this program has provided a free space for youth to get involved in the Arts, and provides a free dinner every night to staff and campers. One People’s Summer Art Camp is housed at Garden Hill Elementary School in Champaign, which welcomes students from both Champaign and Urbana school districts, as well as from Mahomet, St. Joseph and Tolono.   

I had the chance to speak with Mallory Morris, who is not only one of the co-directors of One People’s Summer Art Camp but also the assistant principal at Edison Middle school. “Our mission is to serve the local and global community through the arts. There’s no way in good conscience that we could offer something that only a few people could do. By offering a free camp and by holding it at Garden Hills Elementary school, we guarantee than any one who is interested in discovering and pursuing a love of has the chance to do so.” 

Would you like to help out? One People’s Summer Art Camp is looking for passionate people who care about the community. Volunteers are need to help keep the camp moving forward, if you love art or just want to help in the community, fill out the application here, and clear your calendar Friday, June 16th and Saturday, June 17th for mandatory volunteer training. You don’t need to have any special skills in any of the areas, as long as you like to work with a team, want to help kids gain access to an experience they can’t find anywhere else, and pass a background check. If you want to contribute to One People’s Summer Art Camp, but may not have the time to volunteer,  you can make a donation through the website.

I asked Michelle Adeoye, Camp director and Co-Founder, what was the meaning behind the camp’s name. She explained the name One People derived from a bible scripture read by founding member, Jennifer Phetchareun, which echoed her vision for serving the community. “It was about how together as humans we are One People. And though our organization is not religious and it does not subscribe to a religious doctrine, we as individuals believe that through the arts and giving people opportunities to share their passion and give back to the community, we are showing one another that we are One People.’” 

This program offers many forms of Art: Vocal performance, dance, creative writing, and visual arts. Last year bucket drumming was introduced to the camp for the first time, lead by Luke Davis, the percussion director at Urbana High School. “It was amazing. It was definitely a highlight of the community-wide showcase we hold on the last night of camp,” Ms. Morris beamed.  

Speaking of community-wide showcase, new to One People’s Summer Art Camp will be a two week art exhibit: the RUBIK’S Art Exhibition held at the Independent Media Center. RUBIK’S has been awarded an Urbana Arts Grant this year, and as part of the conditions of the Urbana Arts Grant, the project had to be in the city of Urbana. Even though the camp is located in Champaign, it thrives on providing opportunities to share the kids’ artwork with the community; partnering with the IMC will allow them to do just that. This exhibition will feature the campers’ work and memories from their week at camp. The exhibition will be open Saturday, September 9th ending with a special Lounge event on Saturday, Sept 23rd. The Lounge is One People’s signature production — the event usually invites artist in the community to share their craft while also promoting a community nonprofit or important social cause. The One People’s Summer Arts Camp edition of this event gives the campers in the performing arts a stage and audience to show off the skills they learned the previous week. 

Also new this year, Engineering Arts and Media Arts Creative will be added to the program. The Engineering section was added in collaboration with the University of Illinois Women in Engineering Program as an opportunity to infuse tech and design at camp and add a STEM focus. The Media Arts Creative Community was added due to the suggestion of the Lead Coach, Leslie Lewis. Her professional and educational background is in journalism, media, and education. 

One People’s Summer Art Camp is also the recipient of the 2016 STAR’s Difference Maker Award. “When we started we didn’t think we were doing so much. We thought we were working together on something we loved and that made sense. But we are seeing that it is something that is needed. People should be encouraged to be part of the community. We need more of it and why not do it through the arts!” Ms. Adeoye says.

She continues to say, “We see kids, adults, community organizations, and local businesses come together to put on something that benefits the community. And it’s not like people have to give that much. Its one week in the evening…but during that week so much happens that carries out through the rest of the year. We hope everyone who can and who has a vision of seeing a brighter Champaign-Urbana participate. And it may not be in volunteering, like Luke does with the drumming, but it can be donating art supplies, donating food for the kids, sharing the opportunity to be part of the experience like we’re doing with participates.” 

I couldn’t agree more.

One People’s Summer Arts Camp happens from 5:30-8:30 p.m. the week of July 10th for students between the ages of 9-12. Registration is open for campers, and volunteers can still apply. Volunteer training happens June 16th & 17th. The RUBIK’s Exhibition at the IMC will be held during September, with a special Lounge Event on the 23rd. Visit for more information. 

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