Civic League teaches arts to local children

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Jun 16, 2018 at 8:00 AM

About 30 children graduated from the Civic League’s 13th summer arts camp Thursday evening after two weeks of instruction in dance, music, art and drama. 

The theme for the camp this year was “treasures,” which camp director Gerald Patton described as intangible things of value such as friendship, family and good morals. 

“This program is dear to me because, Gerald is one of my former students,” said Johnie Payton, who teaches music in the summer arts program and also is a Wilson County Board of Education member. “Also, I believe arts should be a part of everyone’s life. Some of these kids have a hard time, so we’re teaching them life skills, too. We want to share our experience with them.” 

Payton has more than 40 years of teaching experience and won numerous honors in Lebanon and Wilson County. Though she is now retired, she hasn’t slowed down. 

“This program, I think I would love to see it go year round. I went to school here. This community is where I grew up, and I love to give back,” Payton said. 

Children learn to exercise many creative outlets through the program. Visual art teacher Beth Petty used her art projects like paper quilling to tie in with treasures.  

“We talked about, back then, families really treasured their children. And they wanted them to have the very best marriage that they could have,” Petty said. 

She invited the children to share what they had learned, as well. 

“When we start to wind this paper up, what is it called?” Petty asked her class, to which a chorus of young voices responded, “coil.” 

“We’ve also used some transparent paper and what does transparent paper mean?”

They responded, “It’s clear” and “you can see through it.”

When asked what a girl might do for a guy when he would come over for a date, the class responded with things like, play the piano, show him her needlework, and of course, make a paper-quilled card. 

“They’ve learned lots of different art techniques while they’ve been doing it, and they’ve also learned the difference in two dimensions and three dimensions. They have really been working and some of them have been really creative,” Petty said.

Petty works as the coordinator of the Lebanon Special School District Family Resource Center, including work with the Neon Bus and Kindness Cadets.  

Drama instructor Julia Cawthon exercised her class’ creativity by asking them to come up with their own skits in small groups. Cawthon works with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center and has taught in the Lebanon area for 12 years. She also works in schools, libraries and civic centers as a storyteller and performs with a number of Middle Tennessee theater groups. 

Dance instructor Richard Browder taught students various moves throughout the week, including a dance performed at the dinner Thursday evening. 

The annual program is free and funded by various groups like the Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corp.’s Sharing Change program, an initial grant from Hot Topic, the Art Bills Community Grant and others. 

The new accounts, tellers and loan department at Wilson Bank & Trust also helped the program as part of its We Believe Together program. They sent teams of two to help out with lunch and assist teachers during morning activities. 

“Wilson Bank & Trust being here has been awesome, because we have talked about how when we have treasures in the bank. It might look a little bit different than the treasures that we have talked about here that require our love and our time and our hearts and our attention,” Petty said. 

The Civic League was established in 1984 and operates in the Market Street Community Center at 321 Market St. in Lebanon. It focuses on teaching youth quality values through various programs like tutoring, recreation, workshops and more. Call 615-449-0719 or visit wilsoncountycivicleague.org for more information. 


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