For the first time in July, Commonweal hosted a week-long youth arts camp on our Bolinas site, bringing together 30 youth of diverse backgrounds to delve deeply into self-knowledge, self-expression, group bonding, and community activism. The Power of Hope Bay Area camp was based on the Creative Community Model, developed by Peggy Taylor and Charlie Murphy, where “creative risk taking” is encouraged and the community is progressively invited to allow themselves to be artistically and emotionally vulnerable. The camp was co-presented with Destiny Arts and Partners for Youth Empowerment.
“By the end of the week, youth are leading the camp and running their own workshops,” said Oren Slozberg, camp organizer and director of Commonweal’s EDGE program. “We move from connecting to self to connecting to others to connecting with the wider world and the roles we can play in it,” he said.
Camp goals, laid out clearly at the beginning of camp, included expanding creativity; learning from people of different social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds; learning from nature; exploring inner lives; discovering ways to bring change into the world; and having fun. With everything from theater, to hiking, to a beach day, to “Activism Day,” youth were supported by almost 30 adult staff to explore themselves, their understanding of the world, and the powerful influence of nature on the Commonweal property.
Throughout the camp, young people supported each other, making new friends and lifting each other up. Staff were also affected by this unique model of community building and found themselves stepping into new power within themselves.
“I liked the deep interactions with people of a variety of ages,” one youth said. “The way that we were being asked to make ourselves vulnerable was balanced by the adults’ openness, which made me more comfortable,” she said.
Another camper said, “In school, I will treat people with more respect because you never know what they are going through.”
Commonweal plans to work with Destiny Arts and Partners for Youth Empowerment to bring the youth camp to Commonweal again next year.