News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Creativity summer camps inspire

Ayla is an SFF creativity camper who lives all the way in Colorado.

"I was nervous for my first camp," she texted, "but the instructors were awesome and fun. When I went in, I was interested in guitar, and when I left, it was my passion."

Thanks to the growth and community commitment of Sisters Folk Festival, whose parent organization now goes by the name SFF Presents, Sisters offers robust arts and music programming for youth in the summer - particularly for a town of its size.

SFF's creativity camps offer programming for kids and teens ranging from grades 5 to 9. Each camp is one week long. Some are half-day, others full-day, covering visual art, music and theater in a thoughtful environment that encourages excellence and fun.

"This will be our third summer driving over 1,000 miles to attend SFF camp!" Ayla's mother, Valerie, explained. She drives her two kids from Colorado to Sisters for these special learning opportunities. "I think that speaks for itself."

Summer creativity camps operate on a "pay what you can" model, "to ensure no child is prevented from participating due to financial barriers," according to SFF materials. Tuition support is made available through the SFF Presents scholarship fund.

Music takes center stage in multiple classes. "I've attended four SFF music creativity camps so far," Ayla explained. "The whole experience unlocked the next level for me, musically."

Seed to Sprout music camp takes place July 8-12 with teaching artist Joe Schulte, mandolin player and bandleader from Moon Mountain Ramblers. Students of beginning level or upward can participate on their chosen acoustic, stringed instruments.

"Seed to Sprout got me started," Ayla reported in a text. "It helped me to be comfortable playing in groups as well as on my own which I think is vital for any musician."

More advanced music students may also want to sign up for Branch to Fruit, August 12–16. This full-day camp with Schulte is geared toward players with more experience; last year's closing performance took place on The Barn's outdoor stage.

Ayla described the Branch to Fruit classes as a challenge that pushed her to grow. "When I came back for it the next year, it was still engaging and difficult and fun," she said. "I've met so many great people and learned a bunch of songs I still play regularly."

The week of July 15, a half-day course will feature Melissa Stolasz leading Outlaw Middle School Strings music camp for players who have some experience on fiddle or guitar. The camp intends to introduce new techniques on the fiddle, enable fiddlers to work on their bowing game, and encourage all campers to learn some great new tunes. The camp will close with a short concert for their families.

Theater is perhaps the ultimate collaborative art form. SFF's Theater Camp will bring together no fewer than three collaborating teaching artists (Judy Fuentes, Jayana Hinkle, and Steven Livingston), along with students exploring the various artistic disciplines within theater. Study of different archetypes, musical storytelling, and stagecraft will be part of the curriculum, as campers prepare a heroic quest tale for their performance.

The camps still have some openings, with the exception of Kaleidoscope Mixed Media taught by visual artist Judy Fuentes, which has a waitlist. Her Fabric Arts Camp, half days August 5–9, does have openings.

Sarah Hockett's son Quinn is an 11-year-old who took an arts camp with Fuentes last summer at SFF Presents. Said Hockett, "She's wonderful. He had a really wonderful time. He was in a great mood every time he got home."

Quinn's excitement in learning about the Impressionist artists made a good impression on his mom. "He came home with all sorts of fun facts about techniques and styles, and the artists he was learning about," she said.

"It was such a safe and supportive and wonderful group, to be around positive adults who are maintaining an atmosphere of respect for everybody," Hockett added.

This year, Quinn attended Sisters Middle School. What he liked the most about last summer's art camp was "getting to meet all the new people," he said. His mom appreciated that at art camp, "Quinn got to meet some of his peers, and a teacher, in the transition to middle school."

"They do a demonstration at the end of each camp so that the kids can put their art on display, and the musicians to show to their work," noted Hockett. To learn more, donate to the scholarship fund, or register a student, visit


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