In the ZACC’s new downtown building, there is a wall of acrylic paint bottles taller than most of the students who walk into our classroom. We deal in popsicle sticks by the thousand, paper by the pound, and glue by the gallon. In our recording studio and music school, dozens of short scale guitar strings wait tensioned and ready for first time rock and rollers to find the notes they want to play. Our guitars, like every popsicle stick or piece of glitter on our shelves, only matter when there is a camper to give them a melody or a picture to be a part of.
The ZACC’s educational model is process based, utilizing our supplies and the guidance of our dedicated instructors as a foundation from which to build an exploratory experience for young artists. In both our visual and performance based camp programs, this leads to a mosaic of individual perspectives. Take, for instance, our Stop Motion Animation camps, two of which are being offered this summer, where students are led through the process of making their own short stop motion films about any subject they choose. For one student in the past, this meant an epic sea battle between hand built paper ships over painted waives. For another, it meant teaming up with one of their peers to craft a narrative of betrayal and alliance among the feline families of all 76 of the cat figurines they brought from home.
In our music and performance based camps, individual experience becomes a group project. For our Rock Camps, students form bands and, over the course of the week-long summer camp, write their own song to perform in front of an audience. Even if they have never strummed a guitar or picked up a pair of drumsticks, our rock campers work with our instructors and each other to translate their world into music. Some lean on their imagination, like one band who sang about a time traveling space weasel. Others write closer to their perspective, like the group from last summer who took turns writing verses about what it felt like to be kids during quarantine. Either way, our rock campers use music to work as a team and overcome individual barriers, even those new limitations and restrictions that we have all had to adapt to over the last year.
Our goal at the ZACC is to expand access to our array of programming to as many community members as possible. To reduce financial obstacles, we offer a scholarship program for youth and adults (that’s right, we have grown up camps too!) through a short application on our website. We are also always looking for new ways to expand our outreach and accessibility, a charge that has recently led us to acquire a 14 passenger art van so our teachers and artists can adventure beyond the ZACC’s building. We will be using our new van to help our campers explore the intersection of art and nature around the Missoula area during several of our visual arts summer camps.
The ZACC art van lets us add the outdoors to an already expansive list of mediums and subjects that comprise our arts programming. This summer, ZACC summer campers can explore everything from shadow puppetry to ceramics. Young playwrights can write and stage their own vignettes as part of Yes Fest!, and aspiring stand up comics can crack jokes with some of Missoula’s best comedians. One thread runs through all of these different camps we dream up at the ZACC — we offer something for everyone because we believe that everyone has a creative voice to find.
See you this summer!
ZACC Education & Volunteer Coordinator