Image of the young Artists' Camp gallery
Photo by Sophia Dao - Young Artists' Camp, Program Coordinator

The Art of Discovering Identity

Story by Nathan Cunningam

Photos by Sophia Dao

When the word “summer” is brought up in a conversation, people think of the beach, the sun, laughing, playing, jumping and having fun. All of these aspects were captured, one way or another, in our Young Artists’ Camp provided by the Art Teaching Credential Program at CSULB this summer. 

The Young Artists’ Camp was founded through the Art Teaching Credential Program at CSULB to provide a wonderful creative and educational experience so that young students can express themselves through the arts. The program provides two and three dimensional instructions, such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, printmaking and more. According to the website, it is comparable to a fine arts class within the secondary school education level. Also, the program doubles as a studies in art education course, providing a teaching experience for both students and instructors alike. 

Wall of masks made by the students
"Clay Creations of Symbolic Self"

The overall theme of the camp reflects a social justice aspect determined by that year’s instructors. This year’s students explored identity through self-reflection and comparison to society at large. We took a deeper dive into self-expression and ended the summer with a student art show at the School of Art Student Galleries on campus.

I was blessed to teach these students over this summer as one of the 3D instructors. I can honestly say they taught me as much as I taught them. Elizabeth Kneisley, one of the 2D instructors of the CSULB Young Artists’ Camp, expressed the in-depth experience that students were able to obtain. She reveals how the camp was a special opportunity for the students to be exposed to this type of social justice at such a young age. Students were encouraged to explore their creative identities while also being involved within their surrounding communities.

“As a teacher, I learned so much about the individualities of my students; the art camp allowed them to open up and share their passions, interests and cultures,” Kneisley said. “I truly saw growth and transformation in each student throughout the course of the art camp.” 

I truly saw growth and transformation in each student throughout the course of the art camp.

One example of the students’ work shown in the art gallery was the “Clay Creations of Symbolic Self” inspired by mentor artist Bruce M. Sherman. The multileveled sculptures made from rolling slabs needed to show at least four symbols using the slip and score method in their artwork. Students were encouraged to take time to self-reflect through the help of worksheets and activities the instructors created. 

Gallery of young artists' work
School of Art Student Gallery

Yanitzi Arroyo, the lead 3D instructor for the “Clay Creations” project, expressed her feelings of gratitude for working with the students. The instructor’s goal was to allow the students to express what they feel identifies themselves and express it through symbols. No two pieces are alike.

No two pieces are alike.

“The Symbolic Self piece represented each student’s unique qualities that made up their own identity,” Arroyo said. “What we really wanted the students to learn from this experience was that their identity to someone else’s will never be the same and that is perfectly fine. Diversity should always be wholeheartedly accepted and it always begins with oneself.”