Washington Street Arts Center

After a one-year hiatus, the Vermillion Area Arts Council (VAAC) is bringing the Messy Hands Art Camp back to Vermillion this summer. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the very popular camp will take on a new look as a do-at-your-own pace, take-home summer camp coordinated through the library.

“With the generous support of the South Dakota Arts Council, Vermillion Public Library, City of Vermillion, and private donors, this year's Messy Hands Camp experience will be a take-home kit,” said Susan Heggestad, VAAC president. “The Vermillion Area Arts Council has been looking forward to bringing Messy Hands Summer Art Camp back after its hiatus last summer. Unfortunately, due to health concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, we did not feel it was safe enough yet to put teachers and campers into close quarters with one another for long periods of time. But, we really want to serve the community and support accessible arts experiences for our youth, so we evaluated different ways of offering camp. This year, the excitement continues in a new way!”

With the new format comes a greatly reduced cost to participate. Families can sign children up for the camp with a suggested donation of $25 per kit (the kit value will be approximately $50). Sign up by visiting the Vermillion Public Library’s Summer Reading Program page for more information.

Explains Heggestad: “The kit will be perfect for budding artists aged 5 & up, with 10-12 visual art projects ranging from art principles and fundamentals to simple ceramics, watercolor and acrylic painting, as well as digital photography,” Hegestad said. “Most materials needed to complete each project once will be included along with follow-along handouts, and resource lists with links to tutorial videos made by our very own Messy Hands Summer Camp instructors. We are looking forward to also inviting campers to join in some exciting, socially-distanced collaborations.”

The camp will begin in early July when kits are distributed as part of the Summer Reading Program at the Vermillion Public Library. All registrants will receive precise pickup information via email near the end of June. Currently, VAAC officials are planning for an enrollment of 80 participants, but they would be happy to see more, said Heggestad.

“There is no deadline to register per se, as we will happily accept registrations up until disbursement in early July,” she said. “That said, we've planned for a total of 80 kits, and we are already halfway toward that goal! We've been offered some support to possibly purchase more materials to create additional kits beyond the first 80 but, obviously, it would be very helpful for us to know as soon as possible what the demand is - then we can get more materials ordered!”

So, families, please sign up today! Donations to support this year’s take-home Messy Hands Summer Art Camp may be made by check to the VAAC and mailed to P.O. Box 484, Vermillion, SD 57069, or paid online at the Vermillion Area Arts Council website: www.vaac.online/messy-hands-summer-art-camp.html.

Bringing back the Messy Hands Summer Art Camp is a challenge this year, not just due to COVID-19, but also due to the precarious state of the Vermillion Area Arts Council, admits Heggestad, the soon-to-be outgoing president of the organization.

“As I am the out-going president of the VAAC, I have focused all of my attention recently on bringing Messy Hands back,” said Heggestad. “I will be stepping back from most responsibilities, and certainly won't be speaking on behalf of the board. But I think that the VAAC was already in a rather critically delicate position before COVID. I would like to see the organization rise to the occasion and meet the needs of the community in new ways. This pandemic could be the end, or it could be the beginning of a wonderful new life of bringing the arts to Vermillion. What the VAAC needs most is the involvement of engaged community members, so I encourage anyone who would like to play a role in the future of the organization to reach out via email: vermillionareaartscouncil@gmail.com.”

For most of the past year, dedicated volunteers have worked to examine the structure and viability of the Vermillion Area Arts Council. In March 2019, the organization held a community input meeting, which resulted in the launch of a Building Task Force committee to examine the issues surrounding the VAAC’s ownership of the Washington Street Arts Center (WSAC).

“Meanwhile, the board was attempting to address some serious strategic planning, including refining the mission, evaluating and focusing in on programming, and inviting outside recommendations on fundraising,” she said.

The Building Task Force met from May of 2019 through February of 2020 and discussed various aspects of the impact the WSAC has had on the overall functioning and sustainability of the organization, including the percentage of the budget spent on the building, the continued maintenance needs of the facility, and the current and future programming suitability of the facility. There was also discussion of the pros and cons of residing in an alternate facility, or perhaps functioning with no facility at all, and utilizing other community venues for programming, said Heggestad.

“We concluded this process by inviting an outside facilitator to walk us through the various components of what we'd discussed over the year, and to attempt to come to some final recommendations regarding the building,” she said. “Due to COVID, the final summary report of that meeting has been held up, and we hope to publish it as soon as we receive it. In a nutshell, the group was quite evenly split over the final recommendation, with four in favor of recommending we keep the building, and five being in favor of selling it.

“The VAAC board has intended all along to weigh the final recommendation in their plans moving forward, but with significant changes in the make-up of the board in recent months, it seems unlikely that there will be any meaningful move toward selling,” Heggestad said. “The other outcome of that meeting, however, is to focus more intently in the short term on publishing our programming calendar(on hold with COVID) and taking the needed steps to hire a part-time administrative assistant (on hold with COVID).”

To get involved with the VAAC or for more information about this year’s take-home Messy Hands Summer Art Camp, please email camp director Susan Heggestad at artist@susanheggestad.com.

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