LaGRANGE — About a dozen youngsters crowded around a flashlight during a summer camp Wednesday at the LaGrange Art Museum’s Center for Creative Learning. The light’s beam shone through a clear glass prism, scattering it and separating the colors on the cement floor below.
The children listened as the museum’s education director, Sallie Keith, explained why the light was refracting and told the kids about the colors they were seeing. As part of her job, Keith is leading a multi-week summer camp program for kids in conjunction with West Georgia STAR, the nonprofit arm of the LaGrange Housing Authority.
Karen Briggs, the museum’s executive director, said she’s excited about the opportunity and is glad to see the new Center for Creative Learning taking shape so quickly.
“We have a summer program partnership with the housing authority for three weeks in July,” she said. “They come both to our site and we go to their site. We also have a similar partnership with the Boys and Girls Club in July as well. We work with everything from homeschoolers to Twin Cedars (a youth-service nonprofit). We have a wide variety of educational opportunities because we’re able to use that building.”
After the children handed back the flashlight to their teacher, Keith, the group moved to a different section of the large event space in the front of the CCL. Thick, gloppy blue ink, rollers and paper waited on tables as the students gathered around and took their seats. Keith walked over to the table and picked up a rubber cast of a fish and told the kids it was molded from a real fish.
Hundreds of years ago, Keith told the kids, before the invention of photography, Japanese fisherman would catch massive fish and to keep a record of the catch, they would roll ink across the fish and press paper across it to cast an image. Wednesday, the kids would also do that — albeit with rubber fish.
After Keith demonstrated the process, she asked who wanted to go first. Hands jetted up across the room but 9-year-old Jeffery Sims was the quickest. He leapt from his seat and joined his teacher at the front of the room as she guided him through the rolling of the ink, the pressing of the paper and the drying of the image. Sims smiled widely as he pulled back the white paper, revealing the blue-ink image of the fish.
Sims isn’t the only person smiling about what’s happening at the new center. The new building at the corner of Lafayette Parkway and Morgan Street that houses the center has so far been a success that surpassed the expectations of the museum’s executive director, Briggs, too.
“I think the first month we were open, I made a statement at a board meeting … I said, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” Briggs said. “We’d been open for less than 30 days and already we’d had everything from Irish folk dancers to a Korean chamber orchestra recitals. We’ve taught toddlers how to cook and seniors how to work with clay. We’ve really been just been almost an unbelievable amount of opportunity. Who knew that there was such a need here?”
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter for LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.