Summerblue performance approachesLon Church just can’t stay away from Two Harbors. Born and raised in the area, he’s lived all over the country and currently resides in Madison, Wis. But each summer for the last sixteen years, he’s made the trip back home to run the Summerblue Arts Camp.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Lon Church just can’t stay away from Two Harbors.
Born and raised in the area, he’s lived all over the country and currently resides in Madison, Wis. But each summer for the last sixteen years, he’s made the trip back home to run the Summerblue Arts Camp.
“I’ve worked in cities all my life but I’m a Lake Superior boy at heart,” Church said.
The program, offered through the Lake Superior School District Community Education, always draws a crowd of kids ages 7-17 for the summer. This year, Church has 32 kids in the program, a dozen of which are new.
He usually starts each season with a theme in mind, but that’s where the preparation ends. The kids help create the plot and his fellow teachers create projects to complement the theme. It’s a collaborative, organic process, Church said.
The entire group brainstorms in the on-site teepee at the beginning of the program. One year, when the play was loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey, one of the children said she wanted to be a chicken.
“Everyone laughed at her,” Church said.
As the plot developed and characters took shape, the chicken suddenly became one of the most important characters—a prophet that guided those on the odyssey.
“That’s just kind of the perfect example of how things develop,” Church said.
This year, Church chose the theme of inclusion and exclusion. The kids get the chance to have fun with the theme—during one scene, the girls on stage declare that there will be no boys allowed in their group. When the boys reveal they have candy, the rule is thrown out.
He chose the theme to correlate with current social issues, but the kids aren’t required to delve deep into such mature issues, Church said. The main focus of the camp is art.
“It’s really satisfying to have the kids create something,” he said.
The final play performance, which is free and open to the public, takes place Friday, July 27 (today) at 2 p.m. and tomorrow at 11 a.m. at the outdoor theater on the Summerblue site. It’s on Flood Bay Road, just past the Flood Bay State Wayside north of Two Harbors.
Apart from the play, which includes music and dancing, the kids create individual art projects. This year, its papier-mâché boats, a drawing and painting portfolio and mobiles made from salvaged beach materials like rocks, feathers and beach glass.
Deb Hannu, an art teacher from Duluth, helps Church develop the art projects. In past years, they’ve done stained glass, wall hangings, masks, ceramics and weaving.
Church has over 20 years of experience in the performing arts and handpicks the teachers who help with the kids. He wants to make sure they’re getting professional instruction.
Local dance instructor Renee Moe helps choreograph and Shelley Getten accompanies with guitar. Amy Fitzpatrick and Serena Granquist-Mickelson also help out in various aspects of the project.
Summerblue was one of the reasons Getten and her family relocated to the area, she said.
“When my husband was considering a job up here, I found out about Summerblue and told him we had to go,” she said.
Children who want to participate but can’t afford the price tag have never been turned away, Church said. Through individual scholarships and Rotary International sponsorships, every kid interested gets to participate. He’s not in it for the money, anyways. Forty acres along the shore of Lake Superior, which he purchased just for Summerblue, doesn’t come cheap.
“It’ll probably be mortgaged forever,” Church said with a laugh. “It’s a labor of love and a love of labor.”